I can’t seem to keep up anymore. Many days I stagger as though I were concussed or have been stripped of my shoes and eyeglasses and the gold fillings in my teeth. My childhood stutter has returned, intermittently but worse than I remember. Longtime colleagues I pass in the hall ignore my nods hello. I avoid all mirrors as best I can in case I see nothing when I look in one. “A poet,” the poet Paul Celan said, “is a pirate,” and shortly thereafter removed his pirate garb, left his book-lined Paris apartment, and drowned himself in the Seine.
The Nature of Things
A robin redbreast pecked in the gravel by the front steps. I stood inside the door watching it peck one particular spot with strange insistence. The robin sensed me watching and froze. We were connected for a split-second in the only possible way our separate natures allowed. And then the robin flew off as though determined to search further for what can’t be found.
What I thought was a long, black stick lying on the path to the beach – or, no, the inner tube of a bicycle tire – wasn’t, and the instant I realized that, I yelped and stepped back and looked frantically for something I could use to kill it, crush its skull, and in the meantime, the snake slipped into the beach grass, just vanished, and I stood there and knew which of us was innocent and which cold-blooded and venomous.
You believe the trees will grow back and the leaves will grow back on the trees. “Make that leap with me,” you gently plead. How can I when my eyes rattle like dice in a cup? I am dead and looking for my grave. I am looking in the streets Kafka used to walk. My bones click with each step. Listen! Please! I have nothing to say and I am saying it.
Howie Good is the author of more than a dozen poetry collections, including most recently Gunmetal Sky (Thirty West Publishing).