"First World Problems," "Ninety-Nine Times Out of a Hundred," and "Dead Relatives"

First World Problems

They’re auctioning off the unwashed and still stained underwear Elvis wore on stage beneath his iconic white jumpsuit. The darkness at the root of things inevitably seeps to the surface. I try ignoring my pathetic yearning for something better or at least different, but I can’t, any more than I could a rooftop sniper firing randomly into a crowd I had joined. And it’s not like I’m a guy committed to the dictionary definition of words. What they call “hope” I would call a complete absence of twilight.



Ninety-Nine Times Out of a Hundred

Crime was somewhat common in those days, and the law itself often criminal. No one ever felt totally safe. Thousands perished in fires and car wrecks and from untreated conditions. When I complained of crippling back pain, the doctor said it was just my body attacking itself. That was what it was like to be a person in this world. The family dog howled and howled as if in protest. Meanwhile, the children exchanged conspiratorial glances around the dinner table, their eyes like burn holes.


Whether I’m screwing or just thinking, I’m regularly being interrupted – called to the phone, sent on a beer run, required in person at work. Everyone always seems surprised when I make it back home. And why wouldn’t they? I’ve too often displayed on tennis courts or dance floors all the skill and grace of an inebriated kangaroo. Regardless, I receive a postcard in the mail guaranteeing me a chance to win one of 1,000 prizes. Me! A man who on a cloudless day holds a black umbrella over his head.


Have you ever been in the shower when there was an earthquake? Dated a relative by accident? Wanted to eat toothpaste? Ripped off your pants while dancing? Been unable to recognize your own reflection in the mirror or differentiate between faces and objects? It’s like walking into a hallucination without being quite sure whose it is. I kind of wish Baudelaire were alive to see it. Under the turmoil of a violet gray sky, there’s a fire made of people.



Dead Relatives

One rejected the whole concept of sin but admitted the existence of evil. Another would have preferred Braille to e-books. A third had a fluty voice only while on the phone. A fourth referred to routine family events as “Kafkaesque.” A fifthand sixth didn’t know which truth was the right truth to follow. A seventh put black tar heroin on his to-do list. An eighth would knock just once and then leave if the door wasn’t opened immediately. My dead. There have been years when I haven't been able to visit you. There are days like this when that's all I do.



Howie Good

Howie Good's newest poetry collection, Heart-Shaped Hole, which also includes examples of his handmade collages, is available from Laughing Ronin Press. His poetry collections have won a number of poetry awards, including the Press Americana Poetry Prize. He co-edits the online journal UnLost, dedicated to found poetry.


Edited for Unlikely by Jonathan Penton, Editor-in-Chief
Last revised on Thursday, September 29, 2022 - 22:18