Reviews, Vol. 2.4, Dec. 2008
Paper Hero Press, Achilles Chapbook Series, Dec. 2008
Staple-bound, 24 pp., $4
Review by Cynthia Reeser
Howie Good is the author of six poetry chapbooks, including, most recently, the e-book, Police and Questions from Right Hand Pointing. Tomorrowland is the December 2008 publication from the Achilles Chapbook Series, fostered by Dogzplot. As with the bulk of his poetry, the work in Tomorrowland resonates with startling lines that hook you, as with the first work in the chapbook, “Love, Death, Etc.” Lines like “After she dumps the snow from the pot, I kneel outside the tub and play with it, not knowing what I’ll remember one day or that no one escapes the fire” hold a coiled surprise (what fire?) and mingle with phrases like “gleaming knives and spears” and “quorum of crows” to set the tone for works like “The Parable of Sunlight,” where the coexistence of dark and light, death and life, evil and good halo around verse “where bodies in the early stages of decay hang like gray rags from the trees.”
Ever-present in Tomorrowland are scenes from war, from tragedy, from tragic history; but these occur no less frequently than an understated elegance and poignancy. It is often what is left unsaid that is the most revelatory, and this carving away of negative space sometimes comes in the form of dark humor, as in “Late Innings”: “The man at the ticket window asks for some identification. My dark laughter? The socket of my missing tooth?” At other times it takes the form of a blending of history’s tragedies with the potential for atrocity that lies, ready to spring, in the war of any era. It is hinted at in lines like,
Remain inside the train if possible, but if not, open the side door and go out, and love the truculent witnesses to ambiguous events, love witches’ gloves, dead men’s bells, bloody fingers, love the street dogs that bark dismally and the sunsets that can be beautiful if the light catches the brick dust and ash swirling just so.
from “Evacuation Instructions,” and in “America, America”:
…the day my grandmother got off the boat, just a girl from the village, the dead were parading past with crumbling, infested faces, and ever after, she saw, or rather, sensed, the future…
The shoe full of bones in “At the Missing Soldiers’ Office” is a symbol of the dangers of forgetting sacrifice, and points to the potential for history to repeat itself, for humanity to doom itself, but Good reminds us in “Homefront” that even worse than forgetting is to misremember:
Better stay on your meds. Or get some. Otherwise how will you ignore the pile of hacked-off limbs on the hospital lawn, the amputees limping or crawling away, as disability permits, their sacrifice worse than forgotten— misremembered?