Brad Rose

What We Can Name

I have thoughts, but I don’t write them down. Something is watching me. I wasted most of my luck in the daylight. Once, I saw a horse drown in a lake. I don’t think it was acting. A lake is a body of water, surrounded by land. Water has no color or shape, it’s true no matter what it does. They say ants speak to each other with chemicals, even when they whisper. There are 120 thousand kinds of ants, some as big as a bullet, others no larger than a secret. When I called the help line, the voice said, Please continue to hold. So, I did. I’m clean-cut, even when time isn’t on my side. When they answered, I told them I needed to speak with an experienced attorney, one who knows about the death penalty. Most nights, I pretend to sleep. That way I don’t need to wake up. They say anything that can be done to a person will be done. Go ahead, turn the lights back on. We only see what we can name. By the way, what do your enemies call you?

After Dawn

I’ll bet the people in the car ahead of us have thoughts, although there’s no such thing as a perfect translation. Once, while hiding in my basement, I drew a picture of a whisper. I used an ordinary pencil. I had no choice. It’s quiet inside a mountain—coal-dark, the aftertaste of ants. Some people see God. Thirteen feet deep, I saw a hole in the light. I’m handpicked and reliable, no stranger to the undertow of chance. I’ve learned not to bite the hook that feeds me. Becky said they discovered human remains, but in a good way. You still have to boil them before they’re sterile. I’m an e-citizen in the digital world, I lead a quiet life. You can read about it in the Great Big Picture Book of Problems, or just send up a trial balloon. It can be any color you like, as long as it isn’t black. Be sure to keep an eye out. You wouldn’t want it to get tangled in the shadow puppets’ strings. They can be real mean. Just because the puppets don’t have bodies, doesn’t mean you can’t hear them thinking. Sure, they can be hard to hunt down, even harder to erase, but they’ll circle back this way, sometime after dawn. Don’t worry. This time, we’ll get them.

Brad Rose was born and raised in Los Angeles, and lives in Boston. He is a sociologist, and author of a collection of poetry and flash fiction, Pink X-Ray (Big Table Publishing, 2015) His new book of poems, Momentary Turbulence is forthcoming from Cervena Barva Press. Brad’s website is: www.bradrosepoetry.com. A list of publications is available here: http://bradrosepoetry.blogspot.com/. Audio recordings can be heard at: https://soundcloud.com/bradrose1.

Howie Good

Murder! Fire! Plague!

The next morning you insisted, “There’s no such thing as love. There’s only fucking.” If you heard the gray gulls, their shrieks like symptoms of dementia, you gave no sign. It was a bit like that time the sun crashed down, flinging up dead cats and dung, and foreign words were blowing everywhere. There was this feeling among householders that something even more terrible — hooded gunmen with Kalishnikovs firing on police, a mom leaving her baby in a dumpster to freeze to death — would eventually happen. And, sure enough, darkness and flies entered despite the jar of buttercups on the table brightening the room.

The Heart of It All

Her eyes were sometimes blue, sometimes green with flecks of gold, all the things, restless things, I was instructed from early in life never to do. We found a high window filled day and night and laid down under it and moved slowly, so slowly that by morning we had rubbed each other as smooth as sea-smoothed shells. And when we rose up, the world looked strange. It was a place of beauty, I can tell you that, a circular path, spiraling even, and no one was really sure why but us.

From the Middle of Nowhere

No one could say when it was that the hospital began admitting children. At that time of night, the road is dark, and pedestrians don’t really go there. The next day only brought more illegibility, a slow-creeping rain during which bankrupts leaped out of windows. The police recommended calling if it happened again. Look around. A horse is not a metaphor. If I were you, I wouldn’t go out without a companion. What I assumed was the Atlantic, greasy and barely moving, a gull resting its head under a wing, may have been a new god seated on a throne of razor wire.

The Desert of the Real

It was a downtown full of ugly glass towers. I have never been able to understand the attraction to tall structures, have you? One evening I attended the city’s famous theater. A series of nudes rode across the stage on ostriches and camels under the admiring gaze of former Nazis in tuxedos. Afterward, in a reflective mood, I decided against taking the metro and to walk back to the hotel despite the fog and drizzle. A friend had recently killed herself. Pills. At her memorial service, the first eulogist had proclaimed, “To hell with facts!” I shook my head at the memory. About five minutes later, I stepped into the brightly lit lobby with an odd feeling of relief, only to discover that none of it had happened, that it was all merely a collection of words, some bandaged, others still bleeding.

Blip

No one had ever told us what would happen in the event of defeat. Then the tornados showed up, sometimes alone, more often in pairs and small groups. Even the crows fell — or, rather, were blown — out of the sky. At least one man in attendance regarded it as a baleful omen. The rest assumed it was just a blip. But, very soon, antediluvian gods faded into rain, the flickering surface of uproarious dreams.

Howie Good’s latest poetry collections are Bad for the Heart (Prolific Press) and Dark Specks in a Blue Sky (Another New Calligraphy). He is recipient of the 2015 Press Americana Prize for Poetry for his forthcoming collection Dangerous Acts Starring Unstable Elements.