Monday, May 20, 2019

Howard Ho


The man with the hat
who couldn’t feel the wind
in his hair because he was wearing
a hat, picks up a paper to read
but the wind keeps folding the pages
so he goes inside a bar near the light
to read when his face lights up
from the light and he can see himself
in the mirror and leans in to inspect
his unshaven chin when he knocks
over a drink which spills all over
the mirror and the paper and he
no longer sees himself and the bartender
asks, “What can I get for you?” and the man says, “A
towel to wipe the mirror,” and the bartender
says, “No, to drink,” and the man says, “Something
dry” and the bartender pours a bourbon which
the man uses to wipe the mirror and his throat
which he now sees has grown bearded ever since
he stopped shaving to avoid buying razors
making him look like a cat with shaven eyes
and he can’t afford this drink of towel-replacing whiskey
but slinks crawling stealthily to the door
when the bartender mentions the tab and sees
the tabby man halfway out the bar
before he can say it’s on the house
and the man’s beard is getting clogged with refuse
from the floor because he’s ducking down
and sneezes from pollen as he exits the bar
back onto the street, pollinating a nearby
bud, and he wipes off his beard where he
finds a ten-cent piece and, excited, looks
for more and, huddled in an alley,
scavenges his fur for change and comes up
with enough to buy a razor except
he likes the beard now what with its
stealth and wealth potentials,
and he folds the coins into his right hand,
making a tight fist that from a bearded man
seems belligerent, enough so that passersby
are frightened and the cops are called and arrive
and the man does the don’t-shoot hands
in the air, dropping his precious metals,
which the cops hear clinking and think for a second
could be a gun, a bomb, an atomic weapon,
an Islamic threat to our Christian ways,
and they draw their weapons,
until the man says, “I’ll pay for the
bourbon,” and the cops are taken aback,
and see that the man is referring to some
legal tender, with the words in God we trust,
and know this man means no harm but
the man sees the guns and runs anyway
not wanting to look back lest he lose
his stride, his muscles aching on only a shot
of bourbon in his veins, an emaciated lion
defiantly pollinating stray flora, thinking
about that article in the paper he just
was trying to read in the light about
shoot-first trigger happy coppers.

It was only then when he noticed his hat was no longer on his head.

Howard reads "Ballad of a Tabby Man":

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Howard confesses: "The escalating threats to underprivileged people (police shootings, Muslim ban) were on my mind when I wrote 'Ballad of a Tabby Man'. However, I wasn’t looking to be political, but rather to follow one such person facing a mundane situation that nonetheless escalates into a challenging one for him."

HOWARD HO is a playwright and composer. His play Various Emporia was a 2017 O'Neill National Playwrights Finalist. His musical Pretendo was featured in the Center Theatre Group (CTG) Library Reading Series. He was a 2016 CTG Literary Fellow and a 2013 NY State Summer Writers Institute Scholarship recipient. His short plays and musicals have been produced at Theatre Now New York, Company of Angels and New Musicals, Inc and presented at Playground-LA. His articles have been published at HowlRound and the Los Angeles Times. He studied Musicology and Communications at UCLA and Master of Professional Writing at the University of Southern California, where he was stage and screen editor of the Southern California Review. His popular Youtube videos analyzing the music of Hamilton ( have been recognized by Lin-Manuel Miranda and have garnered over a million views collectively.

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