Hotel Dystopia

by Howie Good


Darkening streets. Impossible to avoid the scurrying figures huddled in their ratty coats. Some live in the cabs of the big machines, others in the jagged hole the machines were digging before the work was abandoned. A dog on a chain smiles fiercely at me with discolored teeth. Voices whisper in the hall outside my door when I try to think. Later, I'll stand on the porch with my hand on the dog's head and watch as the bombs approach through the familiar mist of the customary painkillers.


There was a time I might've enjoyed the tang of truck exhaust following me home, or the boarded-up windows of a discount liquor store. Then tick-borne diseases in fitted choir robes climbed down from the scaffold and disappeared into the crowd. I sat on the curb heartbroken. In theory every sequence of moves ought to be reversible. But somewhere it's always the summer after mom died, and raining, and the rain is passing notes to us through a slit in the ground.


I was resting on the flowered couch after work. You were there, too, nursing someone else's baby. We heard a noise like the sky emptying black baseballs from its pockets. We thought about hiding the baby in the basement. Remember? Or in the field behind the house among the mournful eyes of meat cows. It's so long ago now, but the birds at the feeder still talk about it, how night scratched at the door and I let it in rather than go searching for some matches and a candle.


Fire splashed up at us. What looked like snow or ashes were scraps of paper on which good deeds had been recorded. The fireman remembered it as a turquoise building, with its pants around its ankles. Someone had covered the holes in the screen with electrical tape, but night still got in. We held each other. The fireman raised his ax. No amount of coaxing could get the canary lying on the bottom of the cage to sing.


As soon as I enter you, monarchies and condors, music for pieces of wood. There's only one law, you say, the law of unintended consequences, but say it so softly I only imagine I hear it. And then we untangle, and the migrants on the hill, who had paused to watch a cloud shaped like Asia Minor, return to gathering windfall apples under blind, embittered branches.

BIO: Howie Good, a journalism professor at SUNY New Paltz, is the author of five poetry collections, most recently Dreaming in Red from Right Hand Pointing and Cryptic Endearments from Knives Forks & Spoons Press. He has four chapbooks forthcoming: Elephant Gun from Dog on a Chain Press, The Death of Me from Pig Ear Press, Living Is the Spin Cycle from Red Bird Chapbooks, and Strange Roads from Puddle of Sky Press.