“Talkin’ Tough Blues” – “Microcosms” – “10 Ways to Cope with Your Next Writing Rejection” – “E = MC Escher” – “Dying Oceans”

Talkin’ Tough Blues

Alright, sister, that’s a mighty pretty head
you got on your shoulders. You want to
keep it there or start carrying it around
in your hands? You’re not the only one
that had an unhappy childhood. Maybe
that’s what hell is. All men are guilty.
They’re born innocent, but it doesn’t last.
I’ve been kicked around all my life, and
from now on, I’m gonna start kicking back.
In this business there’s only one law you
gotta follow to keep out of trouble: Do it
first, do it yourself, and keep on doing it.
Here, go get yourself a course in karate.

Based on lines of dialog from gangster films

Microcosms

1 Fog

You wait on a corner for a bus,
and you just see white; there is nothing.
Suddenly something starts to emerge.
You should never underestimate luck.

2 String Theory

If you find a piece of string,
you’re going to make something out of it.
That is how the planets started.

3 Glitter

There was glittering in the sky.
It was beautiful, if you can call “haunting” beautiful,
and it went all over the world.

4 Wind

Watching the fronds
of a plant twist and arc
in the wind or bend
under the weight of
a red-winged blackbird,
I always wonder why
in the world we have
something like art.

5 Coda

The two atomic bombs
were dropped that summer.
It would be wonderful
if we could start over again.

Based on Pat Adams as quoted in “Beer With a Painter: Pat Adams,” Hyperallergic, 9/9/2021.

10 Ways to Cope with Your Next Writing Rejection

I had received an emailed rejection of a humorous poem called “10 Ways to Cope with Your Next Writing Rejection.” Number 1 was “Regift it.” In my disappointment, I didn’t take my own advice but chased a muscle relaxer with a beer. It wasn’t too long before I felt like the body that had been pulled from the canal after three days in the water. Even if I had wanted to follow Gerhard Richter’s example, I couldn’t have managed it just then. Only when he destroyed a painting, so to speak, scratched it out, was it fit to be seen.

E = MC Escher

Albert Einstein’s colleagues at the Institute of Advance Study were worried that he was drinking again. Without a word of warning to anyone, he had shaved off his spectacular mane of wild white hair. Now he was openly talking about getting a tattoo of e=mc2 on his neck. In addition, he had started bringing his pet raven Poe to the office. No one knew then that, pressured by federal law enforcement, he was wearing a wire to faculty meetings. While one or another of the faculty bloviated, he would sit there listening with foreboding to something only he could hear – the ticking of the universe’s cooling engine.

Dying Oceans

A phone ringing in my dream wakes me in real life. It’s low tide, and at low tide, the rotten egg smell of dying oceans drifts in through the bedroom window. Rather than fall back asleep, I lie there in the dark becoming convinced that something is wrong with my breathing. Soon I’m remembering stories I heard growing up of mass shootings that took place in front of mass graves that the victims themselves had been forced to dig. The truth is, when you start, you may not know where you’re going. You may think you do, but you don’t.

— Howie Good is the author of the prose poetry collection FAMOUS LONG AGO, forthcoming from Laughing Ronin Press.