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What Rough Beast | Poem for February 11, 2018

Marjorie Moorhead
Because an invitation…

Because I’m up before the dawn,
I see rosy clouds appear as sun breaks.
Because it is late November,

all is couched in a hazy cold moisture cluster;
festering, gathering, waiting for weight
to bring it down as snow.

Few leaves hanging on.
Most have hit the earth,
skittered and clattered dryly away.

Now tree skeletons stand tall and proud,
showing beautiful silhouettes
on a cold air screen.

Will they get a blanket?
How thick will it be?
A many snowflake’d quilt, joined in unique pattern.

Because I worry about such things
I think about the shoveling out,
and the shuttering in.

Because it seems like old school survival;
boots pulled over wool,
ear flaps, gloves, scarves,
tissues and hot soup at hand.

Will the frail and infirm survive?
To be warmed by Spring
and hear it’s song?
Because an invitation is on it’s way
for the hardy.

 

Marjorie Moorhead‘s poem “Starlight in My Pocket”  appeared in the HIV Here & Now project annual run-up to World AIDS Day in 2017. Her poem “Wandering the Anthropocene” is included in the anthology A Change of Climate (Independently published, 2017) edited by Sam Illingworth and Dan Simpson to benefit the Environmental Justice Foundation. Her poems will appear in the anthologies Birchsong: Poetry Centered in Vermont,  Vol. 2 (Blueline Press, 2018) and in the Opening Windows Fourth Friday Poets collection forthcoming from Hobblebush Press in 2018. Marjorie lives in New Hampshire near the Vermont border.

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What Rough Beast | Poem for February 10, 2018

Kathleen Hellen
When stars threw down their spears

—after Blake

Here’s a woman—102—(the oldest that we knew)
who fans herself with programs
of her thanks

the pace car leading
feathered caps,
buttons, badges

3.3 degrees above the average

For now at least—
we hitch our flags to wagons, quarter watermelon
drink sweet tea in gallons

warmer than
the normal, hotter than the record set
in ’36 —

we pledge allegiance. The color guard saluting
the children hula hooping. Later
firecrackers. Later

clouds like scattered sheep
The shearing of the season
The blackened sky that swallowed wheat

The moon sneaks up on sinew. Can you see?
the stars o, say,

the coldest winter coming

 

Kathleen Hellen is the author of Umberto’s Night (Washington Writers’ Publishing House, 2012), winner of the Jean Feldman Poetry Prize, and two chapbooks, The Girl Who Loved Mothra (Finishing Line Press, 2010) and Pentimento (Finishing Line Press, 2014). Her poems have appeared in journals including American Letters and Commentary, Barrow Street, The Massachusetts Review, New Letters, Prairie Schooner, The Sewanee Review, and others, as well as in Nasty Women Poets: An Unapologetic Anthology of Subversive Verse (Lost Horse Press, 2017). Her poems have been awarded the Thomas Merton poetry prize and prizes from the H.O.W. Journal and Washington Square Review.

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What Rough Beast | Poem for February 9, 2018

Devon Balwit
The Confusion is Understandable

Woman accidentally joins search party looking for herself.
I can see how it would happen, the urgency gathering

her up, the need to bring something back at the end
of the day, like my dog in the pouring rain, chasing

a found Frisbee beyond shatter till the last flung fragment
hangs itself in a tree. Otherwise, the hours shrink

to returned tests, students glancing briefly at the score
before crumpling them into the trash. My hands

grip the table edge. I, too, want to look for myself.
Where was I last seen? Was it decades ago, in line

at the Registrar when, lost among binaries, I dropped
computer science? Or was it when I stood before the judge

petitioning for a name change? I call my new one loudly,
convincingly, summoning myself from chaparral.

I hand myself a thermal blanket, a nip of rum. We lean
our heads against the window as the miles whip past.

We are being returned. Each time the window warms,
we shift slightly, a mother plying ice until the fever breaks.

 

Devon Balwit is a writer/teacher from Portland, Oregon. Her poems of protest have appeared previously in What Rough Beast as well as in The New Verse News, Poets Reading the News, RattleRedbird Weekly Reads, Rise-Up Review, Rat’s Ass Review, The Rising Phoenix Review, Mobius, and more.

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What Rough Beast | Poem for February 8, 2018

Sarah Caulfield
A Lesson In History Repeating Itself

I live in Germany before the election.
I am the youngest of the teachers here, baby-faced, mistaken for the sixteen-year-olds
I am attempting to instill a love of Shakespeare into.
I stand in amongst the scrape of blue plastic chairs and say:
Romeo and Juliet is a play about the human cost of hatred.
It is about what we are capable of doing to each other.

I fail to see the dramatic irony.

My students ask me what I think will happen, as though I am rendered an expert—
One English-speaking nation might seem the same as the other.
Brexit on my back, citizens in glass houses ought not to throw stones.
They ask with all the latent anxiety of a world who knows what
America does does not end at the close of its borders.
In this way, all of us are foreigners. There we are, I think, and I think some more:
Of how I have learnt to kill spiders here, the ones who crawl in through the holes of the
Farmhouse walls. How all they ever wanted was to shield themselves from the rising,
Burgeoning cold of a Bavarian winter.
How something about the look of them set something off in me, some quiet kind of
Loathing. Enough for me to kill them with my book.

Even then, I didn’t want to touch them with my hands.

I think of how I am capable of teaching, with all the calm rationality of someone
Rapidly slipping into authority, finding a way for the role to fit them—how I am able
To say there must be more than hate, and still drop heavy judgement.
He was asking for it. I catch myself in the thought.
Do you bite your thumb at us, sir?

My colleagues tell stories: of smuggling books past the Berlin Wall as schoolgirls,
Orwell slipped into the hands of a East Berlin punk—
For long has there been a history of rendering youth inarticulate, inward-facing,
A people made up of ever smaller rooms of selfishness.
Romeo and Juliet is about the human cost of hatred.
It is about what we are capable of doing to each other.
It is, also, just as importantly, about the integrity of a teenage girl.
They tell me of American shops built around the army base no German child could enter, and of
Robin Hood made manifest in a single military brat, using her identity card to smuggle her friends
Inside, into a unfolding sweep of candy aisles, into mouthfuls of warm sugar. Solidarity.

When I mention American politics to my colleagues, they sigh.
They understand the currency of fear better than I do.

And months later, returned to my own country, the slick privilege of a passport
Grasped between my white fingers, unquestioned at the border—
Shocked by the realisation those same borders had always been invisible, suggestive
A ley line rather than a wall—

I think of this. I think of the day after Reunification Day, sat quietly in the carpool,
Whilst my colleague, mouth aghast, told me how none of the children knew
Why there had been a national holiday.

Later, I will go to Berlin myself. I will stand,
Staring at the photographs of boys the age of my brother, photographs of boys who died
Who crashed a car through a wall and crawled,
Bleeding, gasping, shredded over gravel, past the American checkpoint
Because they knew which side of a border you breathe on matters, even when it’s your     last—

But back to my colleague. His voice, stretched taut to ask a stranger,
Someone outside of this small echo of history:

What have we done, to make them forget where we came from?

 

Sarah Caulfield is the author of Spine (Headmistress Press, 2017). Her work has appeared in Lavender Review, Voicemail Poems, The Griffin, and The Mays (XXIV). She has lived in Poland, Germany, and the UK.

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What Rough Beast | Poem for February 7, 2018

Justin Shin
In a Seoul Subway

sleepy eyes resting between two palms on a handle each hanging from some factory zip line rushing from here to somewhere their blue lit faces cheap convenience store bought white earphones trailing down thumbing through articles and comments and videos continuously and blindly when the train doors open some primal instinct flares to life prodding them through those square doors down into the unknown should it drop them from a warplane they’d parachute down with legs crossed calm among a tempest of anti-aircraft shells eyes affixed on a screen

 

Justin Shin is a sophomore studying at the International School of Manila in the Philippines. He enjoys using literature as a tool to explore the many eccentric and beautiful facets of the world. He writes news articles frequently for the school publication Bamboo Telegraph. He also loves music.

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What Rough Beast | Poem for February 6, 2018

Sarah Dickenson Snyder
A Crash

Just the paper whites growing too tall,
their heavy heads of fragrance and white

bursts. That was the sound
in the middle of the night—

flowers toppling over.
A seed in the ground,

a bulb in the darkness,
nothing really,

just quiet growth
below a surface, puncturing

the dirt to find air and sun—
how little nourishment it needed

to stand tall
and make noise.

 

Sarah Dickenson Snyder is the author of The Human Contract (Kelsay Books, 2017)  and Notes from a Nomad (Finishing Line Press, 2017). Her poems have appeared or are forthcoming in The Comstock Review, Main Street Rag, Chautauqua Literary Magazine, Piedmont Journal, STIRRING, Whale Road Review, Front Porch, The Sewanee Review, and RHINO.

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What Rough Beast | Poem for February 5, 2018

Vivian Wagner
D.C.

The Potomac and the Anacostia converge,
here where everything is shaped and molded,
marked off, a sandstone block every mile,
a hundred miles squared and cornered.
The rivers, though, flow fractally,
sometimes here, sometimes there,
meeting with slightly different
opinions of curvature each day,
ripples joining together chaos.
They speak what the city denies—
that it was burned and rebuilt,
that one moves out, another in,
that limestone columns only seem solid.
And quietly, at night, streetlights
whisper with oak trees about the
surreptitious movements of shadows,
the secret strategies of water.

 

Vivian Wagner’s is the author of the poetry collection The Village (Kelsay Books, 2017) and the memoir Fiddle: One Woman, Four Strings, and 8,000 Miles of Music (Citadel-Kensington, 2010). Her work has appeared in Muse /A Journal, Forage Poetry JournalPittsburgh Poetry ReviewMcSweeney’s Internet Tendency, Creative Nonfiction, The Atlantic, The Ilanot Review, Silk Road Review, Zone 3, Eyedrum Periodically, 3QR, and other publications. Wagner is an associate professor of English at Muskingum University in New Concord, Ohio.

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What Rough Beast | Poem for February 4, 2018

Marjorie Moorhead
Borders

For the second time in a short while
I find myself sitting under rain drops.
The sound sweeps in and away as a hard pattering
like hooves of battalion horses moving through. A windblown storm cloud.

Previously: a steady pounding coupled with thunder and lightning.
I did not feel threatened then; though later came reports hail had fallen!
There was a terror attack in London. My sister and brother-in-law are there.
I find myself thinking it’s for the best my son is moving from Manhattan to Queens.

We could be under rain drops anywhere. Tragedy visits anywhere.
Where do we find ourselves? Borders in our minds.
What we could fathom and what we could not.
Rising sea levels. Depleting ice caps. Dividing lines.

 

Marjorie Moorhead‘s poem “Starlight in My Pocket”  appeared in the HIV Here & Now project annual run-up to World AIDS Day in 2017. Her poem “Wandering the Anthropocene” is included in the anthology A Change of Climate (Independently published, 2017) edited by Sam Illingworth and Dan Simpson to benefit the Environmental Justice Foundation. Her poems will appear in the anthologies Birchsong: Poetry Centered in Vermont,  Vol. 2 (Blueline Press, 2018) and in the Opening Windows Fourth Friday Poets collection forthcoming from Hobblebush Press in 2018. Marjorie lives in New Hampshire near the Vermont border.

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What Rough Beast | Poem for February 3, 2018

Richard Morrison
Crossing the Border, 1987

Pure golden light
Beams from the top of the billboard
Upon the bronze windsurfer
Riding a bottle of Corona Extra,

Bobbing in the cerulean surf.
But we settle for the shallows
Of Cocoa Beach this Labor Day,
Tipping back our imported beers, cruising A1A

In four-color separation.
Someone squints into a desert sun,
Recalling, vaguely, a spaghetti western.
Drinking and driving, we’re crossing the border.

Not quite like the immigrants locked in boxcars
On the flats of Sierra Blanca,
Baking slowly under pure golden light
For a chance at better jobs, more breathing space.

Better for them to have stayed at home
Taking their siestas, thinks the border patrol
As he drags another body from the boxcar,
Throwing it on the pile.

Better to have stayed with their brothers,
Pissing in the brew, exporting it
To rich Americans lounging on their verandas,
Crossing the border with a twist of lime.

 

EDITORS NOTE: On July 2, 1987, Border Patrol agents in Sierra Blanca, Texas, found the bodies of 18 people who were trapped in a boxcar in 120-degree heat after attempting to cross the Mexican border into the United States. Less than two weeks later, the business section of The New York Times ran an article about the success of the “Cross the Border” advertising campaign for Corona Extra, which suddenly and unexpectedly had become the second-best-selling imported beer in the United States. This poem was written in 1987 in response to this confluence of events.

 

Richard Morrison’s poems have appeared  in Provincetown Arts and Christopher Street, among other publications. He holds an MFA in poetry from Columbia University (1991) and currently serves as editorial director for Fordham University Press.

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What Rough Beast | Poem for February 2, 2018

Devon Balwit
White Is All I Know

Why do you hate me? I don’t know. I don’t.
I nailed together this trestle and now it wants
a train. What else to do with the track?

Hug me man. I don’t know. I can’t.
My arms hang slab numb like a hung
haunch, freezer chill lifting crystals.

What is it about me, my skin color, my history,
my dreadlocks? I am struck dumb, a mute chassis
stripped then propped on blocks.

I run with spit, vanish into a hundred phones,
know my scowl will stare back tomorrow,
multiplied. White. All I know.

 

Devon Balwit is a writer/teacher from Portland, Oregon. Her poems of protest have appeared previously in What Rough Beast as well as in The New Verse News, Poets Reading the News, RattleRedbird Weekly Reads, Rise-Up Review, Rat’s Ass Review, The Rising Phoenix Review, Mobius, and more.

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If you want to support the mission and work of Indolent Books, consider making a tax-deductible contribution to Indolent Arts Foundation, a 501(c)(3) charity.

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