Howard Winn – Five Poems

poetHoward Winn‘s poetry and fiction has been published recently in such journals as Dalhousie Review, Galway Review, Taj Mahal Review, Descant (Canada), Antigonish Review, Southern Humanities Review, Chaffin Review, Evansville Review, and Blueline. His B. A. is from Vassar College. He has an M. A. from the Writing Program of Stanford University.His doctoral work was done at New York University. He is a Professor of English at the State University of New York.


The dog of choice
in my Maine town
seems to be the Lab.
Once known as St. John’s water dogs,
they come in black, chocolate brown,
yellow or light tan,
mild of temper and
are great gun dogs even
if it is only chipmunks,
squirrels, mice and robins
that they pursue in this
suburban world.
No guns crack over
their heads in the park
where they sometimes
romp and sometimes
march with dignity
or stare down the
more excitable tiny
dogs of minute breeds
who have no dignity.
With no ducks to retrieve,
they make do with
immersion in streams or
a frolic in the surf
on a Maine beach.
If there is nothing else,
a large puddle will do.
Civilization has closed in
and dog shit is disposed
of in blue plastic bags.
Does the hunter within
the canine brain
miss the bloody action?


Go to war,
they cry,
even the old
discredited ones
who fucked up
are resuscitated
for the TV news,
drop the bombs,
send the drones,
kill, kill. kill.
No one notices,
I am afraid,
that most such
hawks have never
served nor heard
the crack of those
guns they love
like adolescent
suitors in middle
school who yearn
for glory and girls
whose love affair
is with the self,
for whom the thought
of war is a kind
of masturbation.
They do not actually
follow their own
war cries, but hide
in speeches and lead
from behind in what
is only a war dance
to the death of others.
How brave and martial
is the tin soldier.


The world goes crazy
in devotion to balls bouncing
from heads and feet
as if biting and clawing
contestants for that
elusive fame and fortune
one hears so much about
are eternal supermen,
with cerebral contributions
to make as the ball bashes
the brain from side to side.
Given the devotion paid
to these amusements
as if games were the
objective of human existence,
one wonders if anyone
notices the poor, the homeless,
the hungry, the insignificant
crowded out of the picture
filled instead with double-
dealing players willing
to shave a score for gamblers’
payoff since winning the
game is not as important
as winning the big bet.


It is the first day of Summer
and there are still Christmas
decorations flaunted by a few
houses in my neighborhood.
Plastic holly wreaths adorn
the front doors looked after
by the wire outlines of reindeer
grazing on the muddy lawns
next to the make-believe trees
which more closely resemble
the ribbons of the Maypole
before the dance begins.
Why do these people cling
to the ornaments of a past
holiday in which many do
not believe but celebrate nevertheless?
The sin of sloth taken control
as the festival of holy birth
passes once again back to myth?
College students are brawling and
carousing at the moment in sunny regions
which never see the pure white snow
of barren winter where these
parodies of Santa’s animals
would forever graze into summer
if the celebrants did not at last
as Fourth of July looms
bundle it all in plastic garbage bags
and hide them in the garage
to wait out the passing of time
until the ritual of adornment
comes due once again.


Like a modern remake
of an old movie,
playing the sentimental
tunes of the past,
overacted as in the original
models from the beginning,
risen from the grave
as one of the brain-
eating zombies
without conscience,
driven by the blood-
lust for brains and bacon,
scrambled with eggs.
God is dead
said Friedrich Nietzsche,
The churches are his tombs,
but for some it is required
that the ghostly shade rises
to blind the bright sun
of rationality and reason.

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