Imaginary Landscape No. 1
This is the last country not on any map. Here the moon resembles a plucked eyeball. Here, as per his deathbed wishes, Kafka’s papers would have been burned. Here the elderly trainee wiping down the tables in a Burger King with a filthy rag is a former Nazi death camp guard. Here the names on street signs have been redacted. Here the faces of close friends become blurry, encrypted, almost unrecognizable. Here sailors mutiny though still on land. Here I try without success to ignore the shriveled birds infesting a black wrought-iron tree.
Imaginary Landscape No. 2
The population of the ghost town has quickly doubled. It can be hard for newcomers to distinguish sunset from the fire organ, a steel frame with innumerable outlets for flames of different intensity, color, and heat. This is the fish of my dreams, you say, pointing at a vaguely familiar mountain, now glimpsed only from an agonizing distance. The bones of your father and mother have been incorporated into its architecture after rehabilitation of their questionable purposes. Why ask me how I am? You’re the one overwhelmed by electronic exposure to the rest of the world.
Imaginary Landscape No. 3
It has always been a museum. This is not a secret. Admission is free, but the exhibits are tenuous, devoted to accelerated destruction of the past. Visitors, arriving alone or in pairs, journey down escalators that link enigmatic galleries of erased pictures – a seemingly infinite number of empty frames, blank canvases, and vacant easels. At the lowest gallery, they discover new galleries under construction.
Imaginary Landscape No. 4
The suicide hotline rings with infuriated doggedness. It’s why I avoid lingering, but even if I take a bus somewhere, the sense of harmony and resolution isn’t much. The dark blue sky has been painted and scraped to the point of collapse, pinned, unpinned, repositioned, and pinned again, whatever it takes, slivers, puncture marks. Later, safe and asleep in bed, an anthropologist of my own childhood, I hang a poison apple (is that a bite taken out of it?) back on the apple tree.
Imaginary Landscape No. 5
Bodies, waxen, full of imperfections, visibly hostile to their usual occupants, disappeared through a quaint door into the cool of minimalism, and still later, spider webs papered over the windows, the all-too-real effect of absence. There wasn’t time to launch a whole new investigation, complete with men in stark white jumpsuits drilling through the floor. It occurred to me that maybe history was a series of conspiracies after all. So I pressed my eyes shut, the dark dotted with forgotten computer passwords and modern antiques and many fewer stars than I remembered there being.
Imaginary Landscape No. 6
It was approximately like love, our bodies strident in combination. The turmoil was irresistible. Then came night, or its equivalent, stirring the stricken leaves. Apparently, this is how the historical Romeo and Juliet died, accompanied by whichever tree, the beech or the silver birch, sheds its leaves first. Language itself is a kind of treachery. Why perhaps the dog’s ears quiver. You and everyone else have begun to suffer the effects. There are two things that happen. One has something to do with spyware. And as the night grows colder, and it comes time to go, the flap-flap-flap of winged skulls.
Imaginary Landscape No. 7
An ivory satin bridal gown. Oh, how bourgeois! It’s kind of hovering, like a figure on a cross, with you in front of it. That’s who I want to stand in front, you, not me, encircled by a feeling of being watched, while a waterfall on the scale of a metropolis evolves, rife in truncated limbs and torsos.
Imaginary Landscape No. 8
The apparent emptiness provokes anxious suspense. We repeat our attempt to interrupt the stillness and quiet. It can become tiresome, all this point, counterpoint. Dammit! We must rid ourselves of the idea of poetry if we’re ever going to create a poem, something that might mean something. But, for now, we wait outside the gates, exhausted fugitives jammed up against each other and subtly lit by a small piece of nocturnal sun.
Imaginary Landscape No. 9
The trains are mysteriously out of order. Such buildings as survive lean sideways. It must be some new kind of virus. That would also explain the relentless spiral of hallucinations against an abysmal backdrop of hypocrisy and genocide. When did aggression become the only sport? The game continues into the night, but, in the morning, there’s nothing in the paper about a chain of thunderstorms moving through an abandoned world.
Imaginary Landscape No. 10
The older couple that stopped me as I walked to my car asked how to get out of this labyrinth. One of the high school kids hanging around the parking lot raised her hand. Without waiting to be called on, she said, “Anything to restore mystery.” She meant Shark Week on the Discovery Channel – in effect, a desperate and savage use of architecture. I expected a giant snowflake cut from plain white paper next. It wasn’t, and there was no why, just some pathetic strings of barbed wire abruptly dropped on an imaginary border and allowed to continue forever.
I wish you a face torn & bent & swarming with filth & flies,
for all I suffered when suffering was all I could do,
just a little boy, whammed on the side of his head,
pulled from sleep & whammed with your belt,
none of the voices downstairs ever once venturing to object,
as if what was happening wasn’t happening,
wasn’t really real, blank signs, spinning clocks,
the ruined colors of my tie-dyed heart.
Howie Good's latest books of poetry are The Complete Absence of Twilight (MadHat Press), Fugitive Pieces (Right Hand Press) and Buddha & Co (Plain Wrap Press)