The Ethics of Ambiguity

Sometime during the night someone redrew the town line
with a length of string and a piece of chalk. There are
footprints that might be clues. A detective in an ancient
derby sighs and crouches down. Some of the footprints
belong to the green gloom of evening, some to ambiguous

It’s another day, but the detective is wearing the same
tearful expression. Perhaps it’s the only expression he
has. He shakes his head at the gray dust clotting the
trolley tracks and furring the sidewalks. This isn’t the
weather they predicted. In the distance he hears a
confused rumbling like that of carousel horses trampling

I don’t know how long it’s been, minutes or hours, since
the detective shook me awake. The uncertainty magnifies
the silence that surrounds every sound. He asks if it’s
true that the prophets go door to door and suspiciously
watches my reaction. Meanwhile, shadows drip down the
walls. But it’s only after he’s gone that the
fire-swallower appears in the window of my bedroom with
terrible burns on his hands and face.

Howie Good is a journalism professor at the State University of New York at New Paltz, and is the author of eight poetry chapbooks. He has been nominated three times for a Pushcart Prize and twice for the Best of the Net anthology. His first full-length book of poetry, Lovesick, is forthcoming from The Poetry Press of Press Americana.