It is my least favorite word in the English language. A sentence that begins with it hasn’t a chance of ending on a happy note, with balloon bouquets and showers of confetti. Instead, the word serves as a kind of alarm bell, its only purpose to alert you that you’re about to be shot in the eye with a nail gun and have all of a nanosecond to prepare yourself. That job you applied for? “Unfortunately. . . ,” the form letter says. Those poems you submitted? “Unfortunately. . . ,” the editor responds. The word is like forced transport to a cruel, monochromatic wasteland of rejection and disappointment. I have been there, am there now, walking in smaller and smaller circles under a sky the size of a “no.”

Howie Good is the author of more than a dozen poetry collections, including most recently Gunmetal Sky (Thirty West Publishing) and The Bad News First (Kung Fu Treachery Press).

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