The last country not on any map tends toward collapse – amnesia, anemia, aphasia, and so on. Strangers rarely linger. Quarantined, the elderly are allowed at least to keep a fire going. You can taste the smoke on the breeze. I rinse the greasy taste away with a glass of the local beer. According to a story I heard, the king died and then the queen died of grief. Another? the waitress asks, ill-concealed irritation, or even hostility, in her voice. There’s an empty speech bubble hovering just above my head. It would be different, perhaps, if my brain weren’t considered my best feature. The shadow measures fourteen feet long; the breeze, only thirteen and a half.

HOWIE GOOD, a journalism professor at SUNY New Paltz, is the author of the forthcoming chapbooks The Complete Absence of Twilight (Mad Hat Press), Echo’s Bones and Danger Falling Debris (Red Bird Chapbooks), and An Armed Man Lurks in Ambush (unbound CONTENT).