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Howie Good


My heart has a hole in it. Sometimes I wad up paper towels and stuff them in the hole. My heart leaks regardless. I visit the doctor. The examining room smells peculiarly of mint. “Hmm,” the doctor says as he peers into the hole. He decides to give me a shot. He says it's to numb me. It doesn't.

“Tickets!” the conductor shouts. My heart is riding the train into the city. It glances out the window at the river that knuckles alongside the tracks. The river was once a great commercial highway. Today it's only scenery. At least the seats on the train face forward. Traveling backwards always makes my heart feel sick.

It's perfect bombing weather. Angels are continually taking off and landing in the big, empty field next door. “Love is the world's greatest democracy,” my heart declaims above the rumble of air traffic. Later, when I repeat it to her in bed, she doesn't argue or object. My heart shakes hands with her heart.

“Next, please,” the barber says. My heart trots in from the outfield, chewing a handful of sunflower seeds. The barber is holding what looks like a letter, but if it's a letter, it's not the letter on blue paper the government says I need. I fight down the confusing feeling of drowning and then talk about last night's dream. Women with half-smiles finger the fabric noncommittally.

My heart climbs onto the roof. From up there, it can see the system of roads built to carry away the dead. I beg my heart to come down. “You're going to get hurt,” I warn. My heart doesn't answer. It's thinking of its obligation to beat. It's thinking of the dead on their backs in boxes. It's thinking of my mother, the unrequited bones of her face.

Friends forget to call. Forget they're friends. Mail contracts without signing their names. Change their names without telling me. Snap the heads off birds. Leave headless birds on the doorstep. And when I'm near, drop their voices and whisper into the phone. My heart remembers now how it got its hole, which was once round and clean and just big enough for hope to escape through.

An engine coughs to life. Startled, I look up. Defendants and their lawyers are dancing around the cannon on the little square of lawn outside the courthouse. They must believe the rain has erased any fingerprints. “But that's stupid,” my heart murmurs, even if something like it happens nearly every afternoon.

Howie Good, a journalism professor at the State University of New York at New Paltz, is the author of eight poetry chapbooks, including Police and Questions from Right Hand Pointing (2008), Tomorrowland (2008) from Achilles Chapbooks, The Torturer's Horse (2009) from Recycled Karma Press, and Love Is a UFO (2009) from Pudding House.

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