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What Rough Beast | Poem for July 23, 2017

John Q. Mars
The Brothers’ War

Big Brother has never been too fond of me.
I remember a time when I fell down
and, as I lay there, on the ground,
I asked “B-big Brother . . . w-won’t you take my hand?”
But all he did was stand and stare.

My Big Brother left me there.

Now that I have grown, forced
to think on my own, I realize
that Big Brother taught me a lesson that day.
I learned that we live in war times and that I
must fight and find my own way.

So each morning I wake up and pray,
hoping that I will live to see another day,
and pull up my bootstraps
before setting out—dodging the booby traps
that lie in my path.

The battleground is full of sounds,
murmured microaggressions all around,
resounding with the rumbling thunder
of police boots, with scorched earth thereunder,
and the lightning cracks
of legislation, executively whipped out
at breakneck pace.

And during one particularly stormy scene,
I turn to see Big Brother standing before me—
wearing the colors of the enemy.

Heartbroken, I try to ask why,
to find out how he could defy
a trust I thought we had compiled
over the course of our lives.

But before a single word is uttered,
before any curse or plea I have the chance to mutter,
he strikes me. Though through the warm,
metallic taste I manage to stutter:

“Th-the world will not s-st-stand for this . . .
the f-fruits of her toils
—all of her s-sp-spoils—
being sent into this abyss.
Sh-she will not stand idly by
and watch you distort the m-m-minds
of many w-with lies.

Th-there will be a reckoning
in which the ghosts of your past will come, b-beckoning
for you to join them in this hellfire you have made
as we rise to heights untold;
and, O my Brother, you will enviously behold
the splendor of our rightfully gained freedoms.

This is the future and, here, it has been foretold.”

To my words Big Brother pays no mind,
a slight smile playing on his lips as he walks on by;
but it will be this very blood-stained proclamation
on which I build a foundation.
There will be a nation that rises high,
in which—every day—the people will have cause for celebration.
As we will no longer merely survive, but thrive,
in this brave, new world.

 

John Q. Mars is an undergraduate student at New York University in the Gallatin School of Individualized Study. He is concentrating in poetry, philosophy, and foreign languages. This is his first poetry publication.

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What Rough Beast | Poem for July 22, 2017

Tom Daley
Petit Bourgeois Despair

The shame mongers
are splitting hairs

with the arsonists.
We are left

to the integrity
of our attics.

Every day is a beach day
in the budget of baby oil.

Skim me. I’m as loose
as a spoon cooking horse.

Ecstasy makes hay
like a woman who moans

with a vacuum cleaner’s
prerogatives. Tears often

mistake themselves
for kisses.

To thaw is to turn from an itch
to a scrape.

Piety is the wrong poppy.

 

Tom Daley is the author of House You Cannot Reach—Poems in the Voice of My Mother and Other Poems (FutureCycle Press, 2015). His poetry has appeared in Harvard Review, Massachusetts Review, 32 Poems, Fence, Denver Quarterly, Crazyhorse, Barrow Street, Prairie Schooner, Witness, Poetry Ireland Review, and other journals, as well as in the anthologies Hacks: Ten Years on Grub Street (Random House, 2007); Poets for Haiti (Yileen Press, 2010); The Body Electric (CreateSpace, 2013); and Luminous Echoes (Into the Void, 2017). He leads writing workshops in the Boston area and online for poets and writers working in creative prose.

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What Rough Beast | Poem for July 21, 2017

Judith Hoyer
An Imagined Telegram

LONDON, ENGLAND
23 JUNE 2017

TO THE PRESIDENT, WHITE HOUSE, WASHINGTON D.C.

FACTS:
YOUR PROBLEM IS VANITY (STOP)
IT LEADS TO CRUELTY (STOP)
YOU ARE SILLY (STOP)
JUST SILLY (STOP)

BERTRAND RUSSELL

 

Editor’s Note: During the Cuban Missile Crisis (October 15–28, 1962), British philosopher Bertrand Russell sent a series of telegrams to President John F. Kennedy, Soviet Chairman Nikita Khrushchev, and other world leaders. In a televised address on October 22, 1962, President Kennedy announced his decision to enact a naval blockade of Cuba. In response, Russell sent the following telegram to the president: “YOUR ACTION DESPERATE. THREAT TO HUMAN SURVIVAL. NO CONCEIVABLE JUSTIFICATION. CIVILIZED MAN CONDEMNS IT. WE WILL NOT HAVE MASS MURDER. ULTIMATUM MEANS WAR… END THIS MADNESS.”

 

Judith Hoyer is the author of Bits and Pieces Set Aside (Finishing Line Press, 2017). Her poems appear or are forthcoming in Atlanta Review, The Worcester ReviewPersimmon Tree, PMS poemmemoirstory, Spillway Magazine, Main Street Rag, Small Portions Magazine, Yale Journal for Humanities in Medicine and Skylight 47. as well as in the anthology Transition: Poems in the Aftermath (Indolent Books, forthcoming). Before retiring she was a psychologist working in a small school district in Massachusetts.

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What Rough Beast | Poem for July 20, 2017

Eileen Tabios
From The Ashbery Riff-Offs
—where each poem begins with 1 or 1-2 lines from “Self-Portrait in a Convex Mirror” by John Ashbery

Witnessed in the Convex Mirror: Raging Against the Dying Light

The explosion is so precise, fine
And the sun’s eye so unrelenting
But, afterwards, picking up the wily
fragments of wine bottles thrown
against rock walls, he is unsure who
should feel humiliated. When a sliver
cuts his finger, he looks at the blood
drops tip-toeing on tile and wonders
“Do I deserve that?” Someone yelled
but another yelled back. Suddenly he
understands horses and dogs—how
unexpected erections embody fury
For, against the wildest bout of
something-or-another, the inevitable
outcome becomes one of deflation
a whisper to one’s drooping ears:
a self already cringing at mortality

 

Eileen R. Tabios has released about 50 collections of poetry, fiction, essays, and experimental biographies from publishers in eight countries and cyberspace. Her most recent include The Opposite of Claustrophobia (Knives, Forks and Spoons Press, 2017) and Amnesia: Somebody’s Memoir (Black Radish Books, 2016). Forthcoming poetry collections include Mantattan: An Archaeology (Paloma Press, 2017). Inventor of the poetry form “hay(na)ku,” her poetry has been translated into eight languages. She also has edited, co-edited or conceptualized 12 anthologies of poetry, fiction and essays as well as served as editor or guest editor for various literary journals. More information is available at eileenrtabios.com.

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What Rough Beast | Poem for July 19, 2017

Billy Malanga
The Average Man

The average man is a conformist. S/he consents to doubts and tragedies like sheep standing in rain. To some extent this is a fact. I looked up at the sky this morning and asked myself, how in the hell did we get here? This country has learned its lessons well, through tough educational/unfortunate incidents, has advanced historically into greatness. Some would argue this. So, here we sit in backyards, cooking hot dogs and drinking beer, while the strange pontificator cuts the legs off humanity, off climate. I have placed too much significance on goals and expectations, on individual systems, whether organizational, structural or interpersonal. There is a feeling of insecurity moving in on rainclouds. Perhaps this is totally my doing, I accept my choices because I become them. Substance evolves over time through trial and error. The realm of power and fear today is multiplying. Administrations are like families that rule by fear, they have a way of interlocking the common expectations at the dinner table. Was I a willing participant? What do others expect? This leads me to a pertinent statement by Ralph Waldo Emerson, “My life is not an apology, but a life. It is for itself and not a spectacle. I much prefer that it should be of a lower strain, so it be genuine and equal, than it should be glittering and unsteady.” I have toiled through some of the recent confusion in this country however; I can withstand personal review after many years of belonging. Some things never change. The Jester has a smiling face and room full of applause. This is by political authorization. The Jester gets a pass, a free card to act out, but isn’t the king supposed to be the observer of the tricks instead of doing the tricks? The ignorant business of conformity attempts to whip us sooner than later. Take note, that the following individuals were generally misunderstood at some point in their lives: Pythagoras, Socrates, Jesus, Luther, Copernicus, Newton, Diogenes and Galileo. To be great is to be misjudged? We pass for what we are. Perhaps the balance of power is only found in nature, as with conformity it really explains nothing. One day, we too will be faced with measure, other than a chronological mirror. As with the wolf pack, it knows when to drop one behind. It is a messy decision but the leader makes the call and the others follow. Obviously, certain individuals in our system today are pushing their own type of meritocracy. More immediately, Nietzsche believed that as children, we conform merely from impotence and fear. Almighty God looks back at the maze of orthodoxy that skulked in so tenderly on little rat feet, it is necessary to instinctively disassemble the emotional machinery of the truth. Thomas Merton once said, “The function of diversion is simply to anesthetize the individual as individual, and plunge him/her into the warm apathetic stupor of a collectivity which, like himself, wishes to remain amused.” I find current events enlightening, a disorder that is all too common. Things change. Perhaps it is within the essence of absurdity that the answers will be branded; however the circus resumes. Colin Wilson said, “In America, through pressure of conformity, there is freedom of choice, but nothing to choose from.” When one is in power one has a commanding ability to make authoritarian decisions. I don’t believe anyone has an issue today with strong leadership. Although, making an example out of others is a clear sign of the times. Perhaps it is an effort to provide mechanical control, set the ship on automatic pilot and let the rest kowtow through anxiety. There are two sides to the coin that Machiavelli flipped many years ago. It is better to be feared than to be loved he said, in an effort to keep the peasants in check. But aren’t fear and danger swimming together? The Prince is sitting on the President’s desk.

 

 

Billy Malanga’s recent poetry has been published or is forthcoming in The Dead Mule School of Southern Literature, The Creativity Webzine, The Write Launch, Picaroon Poetry, and other journals. Billy is a first generation college graduate, U.S. Marine Corps veteran, and the grandson of Italian immigrants. He currently lives in Urbana, Illinois and is relocating to Auburn, Alabama in August 2017.

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What Rough Beast | Poem for July 18, 2017

Carla Drysdale
Dream as Reliquary

His name was 10100 and he drove
Like a rock star over bulldozed cement

Shards, statuary and steep steps
Until we got to the edge

Between Manhattan and Brooklyn.
He made a pit stop, got out of the car,

Laid back against stone,
Unzipped and she sucked him.

He was young and had smooth skin.
He asked where I was going. I said Brooklyn.

We drove on sidewalks in his Lincoln
Continental to the stadium

Where I was going to have him
Let him have his way with me

People were there. He said it appears
I have a gig. He said you write poetry?

Fiction I can read
With tea and sympathy?

He said he was from Ottawa and I said
I was born in London, Ontario.

Surprise Canadians. He left me there
While he went to talk with his manager.

I wrote everything in Siri scrawl
The color of public memorials.

 

Carla Drysdale is the author of the poetry collections Little Venus (Tightrope Books, 2009) and Inheritance (Finishing Line Press, 2016). Her poems have appeared in Spiraling, Public Pool, Cleaver Magazine, PRISM International, The Same, LIT, Literary Review of Canada, Canadian Literature, The Fiddlehead, Global City Review, and Literary Mama, among other journals, and in the anthology Entering the Real World: VCCA Poets on Mt. San Angelo. In May, 2014 she was awarded PRISM’s annual Earle Birney poetry prize for her poem, “Inheritance.” Born in London, Ontario, she lives with her husband and two sons in Ornex, France. To learn more, visit www.carladrysdale.com.

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What Rough Beast | Poem for July 17, 2017

Amy Gordon
Lady, You’re Such a Beautiful!

I saw the Statue of Liberty. And I said to myself, Lady, you’re such a beautiful! You opened your arms and you get all the foreigners here. Give me a chance to prove
that I am worth it, to do something, to be someone in America.
—Greek immigrant.

Brooklyn Bridge
a rare warm day in March 2017
Bicyclists trill their bells
race through the maze of tourists taking selfies
Liberty
stands across the harbor  holding up her torch
beside a gang of cranes
red-orange sky behind the scene

Imagine for a moment
percolating archetypes in 1865:
robust  half-naked women
Britannia of Britain Marianne of France
& then came Libertas goddess
worshipped by emancipated slaves
in ancient Rome  Bartholdi  sculptor
clothed Liberty in classic robes
intended her to wear
the pileus
emblematic cap of liberty and freedom

No    said the warriors
of our defeated South
no
and Bartholdi chose
a crown instead
seven rays to form an aureole
to light the seven seas &
seven continents He meant
her to hold a broken chain
another metaphor
he never dared to execute   A broken shackle
& a chain lie instead at Liberty’s right foot  reappear
before the left one
half-hidden by her robes Difficult to see

Gustave Eiffel  engineer  forged an iron truss
to hold her skin   It’s thin
made of copper sheets   Once a dun
dull copper color  she’s grown weathered by salt
& sun. She glows with verdigris
People say they like her green   It softens her
Give me your tired  your poor
Your huddled masses
yearning to breathe free
wrote Emma Lazarus   She aided Jews
who fled the massacres
among them my great-grandparents
& their five daughters who sailed
four suitcases between them all
past Liberty
carrying my genes
here to the city of New York

Twelve-year-olds in camps dubbed “jungles”
call home on cell phones
to Syria
to tell their mothers who remain
in bombed-out
cities  not to worry  they are fine

Throngs of people walk both ways to cross the bridge
A gull flies over waves
wheels close to Liberty to bring her news
They’re not he calls
They’re not he cries
They’re notletting them in

 

Amy Gordon is the author of numerous books for young readers, including When JFK Was My Father (Houghton Mifflin, 1999) and Painting the Rainbow (Holiday House, 2014), both works of historical fiction haunted by helpful ghosts. Her poems have appeared in The Massachusetts Review, Aurorean, Plum, and the anthology Transition: Poems of the Aftermath (Indolent Books, forthcoming).

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What Rough Beast | Poem for July 16, 2017

Karen Hildebrand
Damage Control

“Kissed, not baked.” Tell that
to the seething patch of scaly red
currently ravaging my cheekbone.
Ticking time bomb, that one,
still stewing over the makeout
session we had in the backyard
in 1974. Yes, I said backyard!
It wasn’t even the beach.
How long will she hold
a grudge, it’s fair to ask.

 

Karen Hildebrand’s recent poetry publications include, “Steve Bannon Visits the White House” (What Rough Beast, Indolent Books), “Benefits (in the voice of Kellyanne Conway)” (Maintenant 11, Three Rooms Press) and “Whiskey Tango Foxtrot” (Portable Boog City Reader). “A History of Feminism,” forthcoming in great weather for MEDIA’s anthology, was a finalist for the 2017 Disquiet Literary Prize. In 2013, her work was adapted for the play, The Old In and Out, produced in NYC. She lives in Brooklyn and is chief content officer for Dance Magazine.

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What Rough Beast | Poem for July 15, 2017

Tom Daley
Moses

The fire contaminates the drone’s
rounded pursuit.

A pillar where the ancient favor
lost its curve.

To cradle is an old cliché,
something framed

from difficult preoccupations,
from different hugenesses—

the basket in the bulrushes,
for example,

sinking from the weight
of the stone tablets

imagined, between sleep
and discovery,

in the infant pilot’s hand.

 

Tom Daley is the author of House You Cannot Reach—Poems in the Voice of My Mother and Other Poems (FutureCycle Press, 2015). His poetry has appeared in Harvard Review, Massachusetts Review, 32 Poems, Fence, Denver Quarterly, Crazyhorse, Barrow Street, Prairie Schooner, Witness, Poetry Ireland Review, and other journals, as well as in the anthologies Hacks: Ten Years on Grub Street (Random House, 2007); Poets for Haiti (Yileen Press, 2010); The Body Electric (CreateSpace, 2013); and Luminous Echoes (Into the Void, 2017). He leads writing workshops in the Boston area and online for poets and writers working in creative prose.

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What Rough Beast | Poem for July 14, 2017

Bette Jane Camp
Banished

In the freezing marsh, cattails call down the Queen
of Winter, Empress of White Rivers, and some
trees even bow back.
//////////
We can only waltz like this if we want her
to see us. But down by the footbridge,
we’re better off trying to guess which animal
left the three-pronged tracks along the river’s frozen
flanks. Oh, she knows who’s cold on earth. She watches for
the green, the democratic. We can only wonder / which
animal was banished to the other bank.

 

Bette Jane Camp’s poems appear or are forthcoming in FORTH Magazine, Blind Glass Magazine and the Northwest Parkinson’s Foundation. She hails from Mukilteo, Washington and currently lives and works in Vermont.

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