Studies in Classic American Literature
A hugely bearded man with a spiral notebook and a pencil lurked in a dark corner of the bar the night that it rained, recording something truly weird. The teachers who taught me, and the students I have taught, all of us were singing like the sea while a big white whale burned in the background. There were obvious questions that remained unspoken. Who was the first person to take a selfie? What is soft dick rock? Why does death ride a horse? As the story goes, Maurice Sendak couldn’t convincingly draw wild horses, so he drew wild things. Still, I wouldn’t want to be remembered 20 years from now as the doctor who botched Meg Ryan’s plastic surgery.
The Secret History of Final Exams
More than one or two use the word ‘conscious’ on their finals when they mean ‘conscience’. The next time I look out the window and the next and the next a neighbor’s cat is easing along the low rock wall with the dramatic slowness of a tightrope walker. Any moment I expect a bell to become a cup to become a bird to become a plane. Meanwhile, the rest of America is busy testing the buoyancy of all sorts of stuff – big chandeliers, thick-necked men with guns, celebrity sex tapes. The next time I look out the window and the next and the next cannibals and psychos are vomiting in the mouths of the baby birds.
The Average American
The sky in autumn has the aura of a crime. Famished soldiers achieve absurd levels of violence while ordering lunch at Mickey D’s. Found film footage, accompanied by techno music, will not help you make sense of this. Every moment seems only distantly connected to every other. The average American believes in reincarnation, hates hugs. A cat with hands (and other human parts) is destined to tear itself apart. ‘Soon?’ a lonely man with a vague resemblance to a Christ figure asks. Sure, soon would be good.
Drink, Drank, Drunk
Who doesn’t love to read the confessions of an alky? The postcard that F. Scott Fitzgerald mailed to his future self in hell is worth a fortune today. Drinking all the time had left him no time to finish writing an instruction manual on how to be cool. He would stagger down streets of gold chanting ‘Holy, holy, holy’, his chin unshaved, his hair askew, his eyes full of exploding ammunition. People tried their best to forget he existed. They barely noticed the oil well fires where his bungalow at the Garden of Allah used to be. The moral is simple: give everything you have away. Any day now an enormous dreamy-faced freestyle swimmer may surge from the ground.
Time is totally nuts, paper in the wind, yet none of which soar, so it seems as though nothing is happening. But, of course, I’m physically older. That’s the point! I bounced like a yo-yo against a wall of today’s ubiquitous connectivity. What happened was that rather than wilting over a period of time, the roses exploded, releasing birds and bright chirping. There are 55 different types of seagulls alone. This black-winged seagull posing like royalty atop the light pole in the mall parking lot is the type that decorates your windshield.
Howie Good is the author of Dangerous Acts Starring Unstable Elements, winner of the 2015 Press Americana Prize for Poetry.
Image credit: Brandon Ungar