We knew it was dangerous, but people wouldn’t listen to us. I often see them in dreams now. A black heap of them. Birds have pecked their faces, their hands. It’s better not to look at the faces. The sky throbs, the ground throbs. Even the trees are crippled. Horses, the clayey colors of earth, have fallen down dead. Wind stirs their manes.
Doctors in white coats attached electrodes to our heads and told us to sleep, but I couldn’t go back, I just couldn’t. I went to the funerals. I went to the homes where they were sitting shiva. I went to the vigils. The crunching noise, I guess, was teeth scraping against my skull.
We were getting older, and it was hard work. People had stopped leaving their homes. Many were just skeletons. Floors overflowed with injured and blood. I couldn’t come up with an innocent explanation for this. Although still early, shopkeepers were pulling down the shutters of their shops. I stood there, trying to see in, while birds kept falling, falling in pairs and falling in groups, to the ground.
The partisan had been dragged from a basement cell to his execution. He stood facing the submachine gun, but his gaze, fearful, deep, jagged, was turned inward, and at the last moment, there was the anxious and sweet smell of Christmas trees on fire. I felt sorry for everyone. For men, for roosters, for dogs. It’s usually family dogs, or dogs known to the children, that do the killing.
Howie Good is the author of The Loser’s Guide to Street Fighting, winner of the 2017 Lorien Prize for Poetry from Thoughtcrime Press. He co-edits White Knuckle Press with Dale Wisely.