Wednesday, November 30, 2011
Sunday, October 16, 2011
The destroyer of compasses is my brother. He lies in the wet fields of war and dies young, his spirit rising above the soil to be trapped in the great books that tell a different story because magnetic north has been demolished, the master of compasses witnessing the coffin and flag draped with the glory of the weeping mothers and the lying generals that perform without the four directions turning their sweat to blood. The destroyer of compasses is my brother. He eats the same meal as I, though the bird of migration is set in its cage and cannot flee, its shriek waking the young and resolving the old. When the bird is eaten, the boy takes its compass apart, hiding the magnetic needle in his left ear, leaving the blazing feathers behind. He follows the vibration to the south where his family emerges wrapped in robes the savage priest left behind. The destroyer of compasses wants to be my brother, but I am too old to give advice, the glass on the compass touched by our father who doubted its magic—the devices of love and death hidden in the shoes of the stone men who refuse to be shown direction and drink the mud of their angry sons, the loyal followers, and the boys who insist they must defend the earth from its barren kind. The destroyer of compasses is my brother. He flies, lifting the sorrow of lies beyond the broken fields of rock where the compass refuses to point, its frenzy the dance in the engine of the heart, the compass the last circle spinning wildly before the young man finds out where he is bound.
Saturday, October 8, 2011
Everybody knew it would happen. It didn’t happen exactly when or how they thought it would, but nonetheless it happened.
“I told you it would happen,” a bearded man told his wife.
“Of course you did. Everyone knew it would happen,” the wife responded while thinking he could use a nice shave. He would be a lot more handsome with a shave.
“Well, I knew how it would happen, too,” he said through the massive piles of wiry brown hair that surrounded his mouth.
“No you didn’t. No one did. If someone had, then it could have been delayed,” she said, trying to picture his face hairless.
“Well, at least I knew when it would happen,” the beard said.
“No you didn’t. No one did. If someone had, then we would have been prepared.” All she could see now was a giant mound of hair talking to her.
On a certain level, everyone was relieved when it finally did happen. They had been waiting a long time for it. Finally, they could relax. There was no reason for anxiety anymore.
Some had doubted at first, but the source of their doubt was likely rooted in denial. Everyone came around eventually. Luckily, by the time it did happen, no one seemed to doubt it anymore.
“What should we wear?” the wife asked the beard.
“It doesn’t matter,” the beard responded.
“But it might be the last thing we get to wear.” She was genuinely concerned, both about her outfit and her husband’s raggedy appearance.
“Then wear something you like,” spewed out the parted patches of brown hair.
There was a lot of variety in dress that day. Some chose to look their finest. Others sought clothing that they found comfortable. Still others tried to make one final fashion statement that set themselves apart. Regardless, everyone changed clothes when they found out it had happened. The bearded man had been right though. It didn’t really matter as long as you didn’t show up naked.
“Should we eat before we go?” the worried wife wondered.
“The impression I get is that the food shall be plentiful. We shan’t ever hunger again,” the beard spoke as the stomach below rumbled.
“Should we have a snack just in case?”
“Perhaps we had better.”
She hoped that no crumbs would stick in the mess of mouth hair.
Most people ate a snack before they left. It happened halfway between lunch and dinner, and people were starting to get a little hungry. The snack would tide them over until dinner. Most assumed dinner would be served a little late. With all those people, it would be difficult to serve everyone efficiently. No one considered that dinner might not be served. Everyone just expected it. Just the event itself, they weren’t sure when or how, but they knew it would happen.
“Should we bring anything with us?” the beard parted to ask.
“I’m not sure. I don’t think we need anything, but perhaps we should bring a few essentials just in case,” the wife said, adding Perhaps you should bring a razor to herself.
“What are the essentials?” the beard wondered, hoping a razor wasn’t among them.
“Well, we need toothpaste, deodorant, soap, clean underwear, makeup, and…” she paused. “Maybe a razor and some toilet paper. You know, the things we can’t live without.”
“Can we really bring all that?” he wondered.
The wife didn’t respond. She was too busy putting all the essentials in a bag.
No one was really sure whether or not they should bring something. It seemed likely they should. They would likely never return to their homes. Some people brought practical things. Some brought sentimental things. Some, those who were very confident about their fate, brought nothing but themselves.
“What time should we arrive?” the woman asked frantically as she ran around the house filling the bag.
“I think we should try to arrive early,” the beard flapped.
“When should we leave?” The bag was overflowing.
“Probably now,” he said before she had had time to pack the razor.
Everyone arrived early. None of them knew what exactly to expect other than huge crowds and hopefully eternal happiness. They stood in throngs, barely room between each other to distinguish where one life form ended and a new one began. They talked among themselves, but the conversations were mostly meaningless and found themselves lost in other conversations.
They waited for a long time before the man they could hear but not see spoke to them. “All who are presentable but not magnificent, hungry but not empty, prepared but not equipped, early but not premature may enter.”
The crowd looked amongst itself, each member wondering if he or she met these requirements. No one spoke with their mouths, instead just offering each other puzzled looks. The silence of death hung over the crowd.
They were still looking at each other two hours later when the gates closed.
(previously appeared in This Zine Will Change Your Life)
Monday, October 3, 2011
it’s always the end of the world
ever since the world began it’s been ending
prelude for it’s always the end of the world
always the world ending every so often
and so no more oceans no more monkeys
no more murder no more love songs
no more world to kick around anymore
because it’s always the end of the world
goodbye world I hate to see you go
auf wiedersehn world sayonara ciao-ciao
all this paranoia about the end of the world
for goodness sake hurry up and end already
always the world ending always finis finis
goodbye world it’s been nice knowing you
everybody keeps on waiting for the ending
always waiting for end times in extremis
encore for it’s always the end of the world
one day the world will end for sure for sure
and so no more world to bitch about anymore
but for auld lang syne hold on to your top hats
try and stick around just a little while longer
you never know what might happen next
Saturday, September 24, 2011
Wednesday, September 21, 2011
Lost In America
Women in those days carried tear-gas pens in their pocketbooks. There wasn’t much work around even for a person with two advanced degrees. The bus departed from underneath the Port Authority building at eight that night. If you asked, I couldn’t have told you the difference between a casket and a coffin. The homeless lived in the corners of the cavernous waiting room. I should have taken something for pain. When I woke up, it was snowing in Ohio.
My youngest daughter, tormented by visions of burning airships, trips the metal detector. I feel like an empty gray glove. Strangers crowd into the elevator with us. Only later do they think to ask if we’re going down. The weather has turned. Buds pop, a nation of suicide bombers in dynamite vests.
So this how I’ll die, stabbed repeatedly by dry droplets of fiery rain. Someone you know well will also be caught in the storm.
I had just put my key in the door when two men in sunglasses walked up behind me. Was it because my mother was my father as well? The one who looked most like a paid assassin made a gun with his fingers and pressed it against the small of my back. They asked each other and then me what to do next. If I have to wear a tie, I said, I won’t go. There was never a stripper named Naked Truth, but there should have been.
The Fallacies Of Hope
4,000 killed here.
that by some
(Howie Good’s latest chapbook is Threatening Weather, available as a free audio book and e-book from Whale Sounds.)
Sunday, September 18, 2011
in the middle of the woods
there's almost no life
there's almost no
middle in the woods
will be cleared tomorrow
lots of people in the woods
they occupy the woods
because the woods are weak
vicky the viking comes
to the rescue
and follow the link to the animated treatment:
Thursday, September 15, 2011
The Earth Is Exploding Where Lawrence Of Arabia Once Slept
where he fought
where he turned
his heart to blowing sand
his aristocratic veins
his blue eyes full of
Trip to Nowhere
Where I found answers I
could not find questions
for. The middle was not
in the middle but off
to the right side, positioned
like an open grave. Voices
spoke In English making
no grammatical sense. I
grabbed hold of
of something freezing and fierce,
which took off all my flesh up
to my elbow. There was no moon
or sun or stars or sky
only rain and movement all
around me like
speeding trains on
rusty tracks. No entrance, no
exit, no way of telling light
from dark. My bones
broke like pencils
against monolithic structures everywhere
and everywhere was nowhere
and somewhere was slaughtered with
no purpose and no direction.
Suddenly there was a sound like
millions of breaking windows,
smashing in echo chambers
over and over. I knew then, somehow, I had broken
through and that my bones would
heal, I would form new skin on
my arm, and the questions were something
in the middle once again. The moon, the
sun, the stars and the sky were
("Trip to Nowhere" was previously published in Ken*Again, 2008)
Wednesday, September 7, 2011
Our tangled pair bubbles out from a point,
Till the dark mass pulls us in to rejoin.
Space winds up time in a place we can stay,
Red shift of light can’t diminish the day.
I only grieve so I find you anew.
I only leave so I fall back to you.
Once we were one in the hot salty sea,
Split but the code sits in our memory.
Ere the begats that the garden expelled
You were my sister on African veldt.
I only see as I look through you too.
I’m only free as I bind fast to you.
Slip of a girl and a boy tongue-tied tall
Kiss inside us through our grown up disguise.
Tucked in below children long to recall
Two old folks young in their soft focus eyes.
I only cry so the tears clear my view.
I’d only die so I rest next to you.
(Previously published in undrian.com where you may find other of Tim’s work.)
“Leave” by Tim Van Hook, 2010
Saturday, September 3, 2011
The early morning graffiti
of fog doesn’t lift here
in London, CA.
Geography is a fear —
a vast pornography of voter
Why not riot? We're expert
at following arrows.
We are what remain of all
that we can’t see for the forest’s
proliferation of trees/posts.
This goat the world's
been parenting as a metaphor
has turned out to be
a dreadful substitute.
Or maybe we're learning
(again) that we’re poor hosts.
Sunday, August 28, 2011
The end is near
The end of the world
The end of us
Or maybe just me
Mass destruction of society
The death of an ego that thinks it is the world
She will be fine
Nothing she hasn’t endured before
She has boiled with fiery skin
She has hibernated under mountains of ice
Her seed is still at the bottom of the sea
And we are a dead branch of Darwin
That will someday fall
And decay into fuel for the roots
That will build another limb
What we call Nuclear Holocaust
She calls chemotherapy
This greenhouse we are building
Will lead to little green fingers
Cracking and pulling pavement apart
Ivy entwining skyscrapers
And the emergence of a new metropolis
With canopy trees and prehensile tailed tenants
Organic beast ripping the urban machine to shreds
This process is not evil
She does not hate us
It is only survival
And we are to be recycled into samsara
It is no surprise that I will die
And so will the WE,
And someday she too will break through
This mortal plane as fuel for a sun
Expanding too rapidly for its own good
Wednesday, August 24, 2011
a year can now be measured in weathered candles
five o’clock tea has been a bad friend
i’ve never had
for months they’ve been quiet in the frat houses
cupping hands around the fire, squinting at the chessboard
“Trade for my Queen, please,”
the pawn is replaced which is not a pawn
but a bottlecap no one bothers to find the pieces
that slip below the table making no sound as if the floor was the
bottom of a yucatan cave 200 feet deep
fallen leaves scrape the door
with the noise of tiny claws
the scent the promise of wax
wanders by like holy men
before the good Samaritan
Before Derrida, Pollock,
before the pirate bay was closed down
my mother would sing hymns to make me dream
and i would try to feel small
i had mountains make me feel small
but we can no longer see any mountains
i found a page ripped from an old story
there were just nine sentences.
but it was enough.
Saturday, August 20, 2011
I kept my mother's TV, one that I'd never throw out, black and white, equipped with old cathode and vacuum tubes. Only occasionally did something smoke. Maybe it was me. So I was sitting there, watching The Last Pony Express Rider, a close up of both man and horse, one desperate to leave St. Louis, the other so needy of sugar cube and water. Both horse and rider jumped out of the screen and into my room of clutter, paper designs of failed rockets, my old love letters written when I still believed in the future of science.
The rider, dusty from the trip, handed me the letter. His horse was still panting.
My dearest Harold. Forgive me my poor judgment. It was not meant to be that I would become the fair headed and lisping stage actress of Sacramento, the rage of failed gold miners. Alas, I am stranded here without money or promise of sustenance. Shall I sell myself to the angry moon and die hungry? If you could but come to my rescue one last time, I will never leave your side. Already, the dirt streets of St. Louis ring in my ears sweet as a choir. In my own unfathomable way, I have always been loyal to you. We are both creatures of what rustles through our brains at night--A Love So Unworthy--Wanda Tarrington-Cates.
The last name belonged to my mother's side. My mother, who in her precociously shut-off days in a hospital that resembled a resort, painted Impressionistic paintings of sunsets in crashing colors. Over time, those paintings, with an acquired cult following, commanded exorbitant prices on ebay.
I made out a check to Wanda Tarrington-Cates and proceeded to hand it to The Last Pony Express Rider. But his horse had turned to glass. His show being cancelled, he was nowhere to be found. From then on, I vowed to live on a diet of cold pizza, black coffee without sugar. The old TV set no longer worked, but its black rectangular eye kept watching me, as if someone far away, perhaps behind that screen, still needed me.
Tuesday, August 16, 2011
The pearl slips through
Wrinkled finger pads.
Water flowers over the bedrock
Which contours limbs
To mold my pearl
The coal I had saved for you.
A reversed Vandenbergh effect
Set up in my mind;
Saying hello to Eddie Haskell
As I drive down Cornell.
When your medication decreased
I prayed for an eddy.
For Riff Raff and Magenta
As our lips sat peeled back
Like the skin of a fruit.
Prayed for an abyss which would take me away
From the hallucinations which made you cry
From the stickers of your faded emblem
When I needed you most.
Well, it's the fractions in our heads—
The analogous mental disorders—
That I thought would lead to our fusion.
But I fed off of your suffering,
And deteriorated to spite your recovery.
Holding to you as a leach
Looking for warm blood
From a lizard.
These were the days when I was better off dead
Air pressure not strong enough to offer suction
To swallow the last bit of liquid
Needed to satisfy my thirst to obtain,
For my catalyst had long since evaporated
Friday, August 12, 2011
he rolls himself
constructs tight against the six stalks
grinding encompassing consuming
diamonds roll the back
and shape head strong
the snake and peyote
await the divine light
the signal of pilgrim luck
over the mountains
to the water of final ends
push the dirt
push the sand
accept the prayers for rain
Monday, August 8, 2011
The fat lady is singing because her heart
has broken both its legs. Bloody murder
rains out in a brassy chorus, where the
radio is useless machinery you can cry.
The chiming of old-timey music is really
the chimera of an idiot’s derision, like
a call to conscience from before when radio
was invented. It surges into awareness
without any message, & translates the staccato
of experience into ice, numbed by musical
phrases woven with the strings of violins.
The discordance of life-styles is projected
like the several notes in a single chord,
where living is a technique like television,
an approximate profession, wholly digital,
& experience more or less an encumbrance,
like the passive thrills found in watching
a bad movie. Personally, I’m wedded to
my sorrows, which brought with them some
momentary surprise, tainted by laudations
promised when the bars had closed, & text
messages that reply: “Sort of fun. Ur cool."
Thursday, August 4, 2011
The Mayas believed we all have a face and a mark. They believed the invisible mark is more of a face than our own face. They said all humans will be known by their mark. My mark is not invisible, but hidden somewhere in the territory of the mind, a place of markings where I have never gone. Last night, I dreamed I was eating fried lizard meat out of a McDonald’s container. It was not a nightmare, but a quiet dream of ritual where I ate the lizard meat and felt stronger. When I woke, I told my wife about this and she said it was a sign I am getting well. It is my mark, the sign of the creature leaving marks on the sand, that distance that has nothing to do with my face or the way I look because I am looking older and the mark trumps my face, the lizard meat prepared by an unseen face and served in a fast-food carton to warn me many people are searching for their marks. I also told my wife the next brief dream last night had me listening to her play her violin. She is taking lessons and getting better at it—the soothing air of the instrument leaving its mark on me as I slept and got the closest I have ever been to recognizing my face with my eyes closed.
Monday, August 1, 2011
“you may drive nature out with a pitchfork but she will always return”
To Whom It May Concern:
By an unfortunate error we’ve
misidentified civilization. It was,
in fact, not created by the deity or
deities known sometimes as God
but by Mrs. Charles [Anne] Hobart of Kansas City,
Missouri head of the Abstinence For You-All Coalition.
We sincerely regret this error
and offer our apologies.
New Directions in the Great Urban Outdoors
Building Bigger and Better Prisons
maybe she wanted him
the impossible dialog
Write your name
in a veiled raven.
the sun detonated
it made a lot of noise
it was over
An error has occurred.
The feed is probably down.
Try again later.
flick off the light switch
The ghosts are laughing
I still have hope
Sunday, July 31, 2011
Monday, July 4, 2011
The phoenix mourns by shaping, weighing, testing, hollowing, plugging and carrying towards the light. He seems to take a clear view of necessity. And…maybe he comes to see the immensity of the mechanism in which he is caught, the immense fragility of his own flying—composed as it is of these ceaselessly passing shadows carried backward by the very motion that devours them, his motion, his asking.
-Anne Carson, from Nox
Thursday, June 30, 2011
Everything will be all right I tell myself
At first I couldn’t sleep it hurt couldn’t
everything was changed nothing
the same ever again men weeping
on television in full public view too
awful for words lives buildings peace
everything normal gone forever ground
to gritty dust and ash but sixteen days after
flags flying a resurgence of hope I laugh
with friends take Giuliani’s advice and
spend I buy a watch I had my eye on
a luxury item gold plated with Roman numerals
to mark the hours I check my portfolio down
but not too much not too much to bear
and the economy improving by the second
by the second quarter no doubt back up
to speed people flying through the air just
like they used to no cares in the world
everything the way it was what lies
we tell ourselves
what lies ahead
(this piece first appeared in Connecticut River Review)
Sunday, June 26, 2011
What’s the weather there? he asked. Some people prefer the sea. The taxi had dropped me off and then climbed the sharp hill that led to all the years ahead. The man put a finger to his lips. We had worked out a scheme – a woman like the girly pink rose machine-embroidered on the back of her backpack.
He invoked the rule of thirds, but couldn’t explain it. All I knew was that it had something to do with pictures. I had gotten a price from him. Bullets were extra.
I met a woman you never met. She talked about the jellyfish incident and removing fragments from her flesh. She said what she most missed was the strangeness of every day. All of France mourned her.