Split Images

by Howie Good

Frida Kahlo, in a loose robe that allows for a phantom glimpse of her breasts, poses against a background of fussy flowered wallpaper. In a further incongruity, she wears enticingly low on her hips the sort of cartridge belt a Mexican bandit would wear in a Hollywood Western and clutches with two hands a six-shooter, the barrel of the gun pointing down like an arrow at her etcetera. The expression on her face is one of bland indifference, but her eyes are huge and round and stare darkly back at the viewer with justifiable suspicion.


The movie was called To Hell and Back. He played himself, Pvt. Audie Murphy, the most decorated soldier of World War II. On the screen, he single-handedly stormed blockhouses and machine-gun nests while lesser men cringed in foxholes or got hit by bullets and crumpled. I was only 8 when I saw the movie, but I remember it was in black and white, and that he was small and stammering and had a baby face, making his battlefield exploits seem all the more remarkable. Years would pass before I realized the guy sitting behind me who kept crossing and recrossing his legs and kicking the back of my seat would, in one fashion or another, always be there.


A former getaway driver who has retired to a cabin in the mountains is forced by the Russian mafia to undertake one more job. I have seen this movie before, I know how it ends – with a car crash, a gunfight, a towering fireball. And still I sit there and watch the movie as if it weren’t merely temporary distraction from a disappointing life, but a keyhole through which I can see everything.

Howie Good’s most recent poetry collection is Gunmetal Sky, available from Thirty West Publishing.