One day it’s my 33-year-old cousin found dead in bed from an overdose; another day, it’s high school seniors raising their arms in the Nazi salute for a yearbook photo; another, it’s government protesters washing with bottles of Coke to help minimize the sting of tear gas. No place seems any realer than any other. A man in Warrenton, Missouri, films himself licking deodorant sticks at a Walmart and asking, “Who’s scared of coronavirus now?” Very soon Jesus, looking extremely sharp in a dark gray funeral suit, will be handing out tickets to heaven behind the KFC.
Dying on your birthday would be the ultimate irony, so we’ll avoid street corner gatherings, malls, Purim parties, even poetry that sounds like it was written by someone who would lick a toilet seat on a bet. In fact, we won’t be going anywhere for a while, now that a microsecond can last forever if the destroying angel, lurid teeth bared, thrusts its face perilously close to yours.
There aren’t enough police to patrol the city, or enough soldiers to defend it, or enough doctors and nurses to heal the sick. The angel goes raging across a gunmetal sky, and, be-bop-a-lulu, an inmate hangs himself in his cell with an extension cord, and a 3-year-old drowns at the edge of the sea, and a dump truck packed with corpses backs up to a burial trench.
What I had assumed last night was the crackle of firecrackers may have been a gun going off. Don’t go back to sleep. A full clip holds thirty bullets.
Just a few months ago, this condition had no name; now there are special news reports about it. People watching think, “Close the borders!” Despite the situation all over the world, today raindrops shake the glass, making beautiful drip paintings of windows.
Howie Good is the author of more than a dozen poetry collections, including most recently The Death Row Shuffle (Finishing Line Press), The Trouble with Being Born (Ethel Micro Press), and Gunmetal Sky (Thirty West Publishing).