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What Rough Beast | Poem for January 1, 2018

Devon Balwit
After the Guests Have Left

It seemed the right thing, to invite
the old man home for Thanksgiving,

to pour him a rum toddy and include him
in family chatter, until he stood too quickly

and toppled, ending in the hospital.
Which was it, then, kindness or

indiscretion to seat him at our table?
Now sober, we feel winter

through the windows, ourselves
in the lone crow on the wire. Leaves

let raindrops carry them
earthward. We struggle so.

 

Devon Balwit is a writer/teacher from Portland, OR. Her poems of protest have appeared here before 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 December 31, 2017

Soraya Shalforoosh
Notes on a Workshopped Poem on 45’s Muslim Ban

After I received feedback on my poem on the muslim ban, I was happy the images were well received and the message clear, the edit suggestions useful, then one man, yea sure, he is older and white said “I wonder how these poems will be relevant in the future” and in good workshop manner, I stayed quiet and not too confrontational and he lumped my poem in with the political poems read that night and what made me the most angry was I knew I wasn’t writing for the rest of time, but for now as it is my survival, what do I do when I need answers, what is done? What do poets do? And I wondered if all poems of necessity need to be written with eternity in mind, does it matter in 10 years YouTube might not be if the ban is, or isn’t.

 

Soraya Shalforoosh is the author of This Version of Earth (Barrow Street, 2014). She has been a featured poet in the Journal of the Academy of American Poets Emerging Poet Series, and has had poems and reviews in Black Earth Institute, Apogee Journal, Taos Journal, Barrow Street, Lumina Journal, Skanky Possum, and Marlboro Review, among others. She hold an MFA in Creative Writing from the New School and as an undergraduate at Clark University won the Prentiss Cheney Hoyt Poetry award. She has been a guest poet at William Paterson University in New Jersey, Berkeley College in New York, San Jose State University and a guest speaker at the American Embassy in Algeria.

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What Rough Beast | Poem for December 30, 2017

Sang Yun Jee
Limonium Flower

Flowers dry
out and
rot
like the roses we sent for
our grandmother’s birthday,
like the cherry blossoms that
fall from the
spring trees, like snow.
But the limonium flower
begins and ends life dry
and so will never die.
The shriveled, purple starry clump
that never experienced life.

 

Sang Yun Jee, otherwise known as Martin, studies in the Philippines as a sophomore in the International School Manila. He wants to use his various experiences to follow the path of English Literature. He is currently the poetry editor for a student-run magazine, The Mckinley Review.

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What Rough Beast | Poem for December 29, 2017

Amy Gordon
Not Sleeping

In what we call the small hours of the morning
I ask the green darkness produced by the radio
alarm clock why I can’t sleep. There is no answer.
I go into the living room to read Haruki Murakami’s
The Wind-up Bird Chronicle, the most wonderful
and strange book I have read in a long time. Coming
to the chapter where the narrator is at the bottom
of a well, I learn that when you look up at the sky
during the day when you are in the bottom of a well
you can see the stars. That is 100% interesting,
and also perhaps there is a kernel of hope
in the idea that the stars are always with us,
like ghosts, so even when we can no longer see
the people we love, they speak to us. I put the book
aside, turn on the computer. Its blue light enters
my eyes as I turn to the New York Times home page.
Why would I do that? Why the need to know the next
vile thing? Electrons, electromagnetic, small things
they call tweets are vibrating throughout our world,
keeping me from sleep. I need to step into the forest,
to lie down in green darkness where I can see stars
caught between leaves. It will be night. Real night.

 

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 Poems in the Aftermath (Indolent Books, 2018).

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What Rough Beast | Poem for December 28, 2017

William Prindle
Amoroleck’s Argument with Captain Smith

There are three worlds only
Monacan, Powhatan, Mannahoac

You white men in great canoes
Must come from underneath

Our worlds you must come
To take us to take away our worlds

Your skins are strange your words
Are strange your ways are clumsy

My brother king of Hassininga
Wants nothing you have to give

But your kindness in attending
To my wounds causes me to want

To trust you and since your weapons
Are loud and your numbers great

I will take you to my brother as now
There is no other path but trusting you

 

Author’s Note: Amoroleck was a Mannahoac warrior captured by a 17th-century exploratory mission up Virginia’s Rappahannock River led by Captain John Smith. This is an interpretation of their reported conversation from Amoroleck’s point of view.

 

William Prindle’s poems have appeared in What Rough Beast, Written River, The Echo World, and The Pennsylvania Review, as well as in the anthology Best of the 30/30 Project 2013 (Tupelo Press). A Charlottesville area poet, he has won awards from the Poetry Society of Virginia.

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What Rough Beast | Poem for December 27, 2017

John Huey
More Loss

Days of loss and a half moon above the tree,
So, the drivers here cross the median at the
oddest times, crashing themselves as only the
unknown can, with small regard for the
stretched canvas that is our skins.

Painted with this, but not indelibly we hope,
we are fixed in the current sorrow that passes
for history this past year when the birds fell
out the sky with bleak frequency, the air so
thick around here it pushed the wings down.

And I tell my kids, don’t give in to this pain,
With heads up and feet forward we will best
the bastards, but, bent down with these sorrows,
am I walking firm enough upon the land to
hold my place with them?

Older now, distracted by frailty despite the rage
inside this day, so deep in the disgust at the seen
that the moon, now gone full, casts no shade here,
and the walk in this darkness seems
stretched and expanded,
without limit.

 

John Huey is the author of The Moscow Poetry File (Finishing Line Press, 2017). His poems have appeared in Poetry Quarterly, Leannan Magazine, Sein und Werden, In Between Hangovers, Bourgeon, The Lost River Review, Red Wolf Journal, and Perfume River Poetry Review, as well as in the anthology Temptation (Lost Tower Publications, 2016).

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What Rough Beast | Poem for December 26, 2017

Abigail Conklin
The Most Recent Execution

Last night, I dreamt
I was waiting my turn
beneath an axe.

Each of us knelt.
The steel freed thick slices
from the bases of our skulls.

It wasn’t until I was under
them that I began to beg.
And they grinned their sick
grins. And they swung.

 

Abigail Conklin’s poetry has appeared on Bonus Cut and The Bridge and is forthcoming in The Lampeter Review and Flume. She lives in New York City where she works in education and curriculum development.

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What Rough Beast | Poem for December 25, 2017

Daniel Edward Moore
When The White House Goes White

Inside the serpent’s    gold sterile cave    
lined top to bottom    with venomous children

spread a table  for the Lord   like a motel in Memphis
pass the salt    on a bullet   through the bright eyes   of Selma   

welcome to    the wrist cutting world    he calls home
welcome to     what happens    when the white house    goes white

messy will be    his messianic agenda     with swastikas painted
on Lincoln’s right hand   with a big    erect prayer   from impotent lips    

Oh say can you see     by the tower’s     dead light 
this is America   reading braille    this is the moment    

they come for you     as you hold   your breath   
in a dimly lit room   the size of a shoe  on the door’s other side   

where you stand    ashamed    in a puddle    of regret  
that so     little goodness     survived

Daniel Edward Moore’s poems have appeared in The Spoon River Poetry Review, Rattle, Assaracus, Columbia Journal, American Literary Review, Western Humanities Review, Mid-American Review and other journals, as well as in the anthology This New Breed: Gents, Bad Boys, And Barbarians 2 (Body Electric, 2004), edited by Rudy Kikel. He lives in Washington State on Whidbey Island.

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What Rough Beast | Poem for December 24, 2017

Soraya Shalforoosh
Getting to the Gate

O’ the dead live in my name
O’ the living are new faces with
chants from revolutions past

There is an owl in my caftan
Beaches slip from my feet
That sand is Caspian
The past is plopped on our present

“And where was your Father Born”
And when was the last time someone from Iran stayed with you”
“And when did you go to Iran”
“Why did you go to Iran”
“Point to your Mother”
“Stand with one leg on your knee arms apart”

I pull on my dress
Pages fall off me
My son collects them, Momma why do they do this to you,

My skin is ink, my name is caught in the scanner

What does it say, what does it say

 

Soraya Shalforoosh is the author of This Version of Earth (Barrow Street, 2014). She has been a featured poet in the Journal of the Academy of American Poets Emerging Poet Series, and has had poems and reviews in Black Earth Institute, Apogee Journal, Taos Journal, Barrow Street, Lumina Journal, Skanky Possum, and Marlboro Review, among others. She hold an MFA in Creative Writing from the New School and as an undergraduate at Clark University won the Prentiss Cheney Hoyt Poetry award. She has been a guest poet at William Paterson University in New Jersey, Berkeley College in New York, San Jose State University and a guest speaker at the American Embassy in Algeria.

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What Rough Beast | Poem for December 23, 2017

Sang Yun Jee
Burning, Burying

Billowing black clouds come out from ends
of gleaming metal rods, of cars and things.
The nose picks up the scent
and shrivels up.
To think of lives that are now noxious fumes,
Sulfur, like rotten eggs in smell and sight,
with burnt rubber and plastic in dumps,
Combined with sharp chlorine,
And oily seas.
The senses and the brain cry out with pain.

Just think—in millions of years we may
Ourselves be giving off the acrid scent
of burning gasoline and CO2
and death
But wait, for yet another scent wafts by the nose.
One equally revolting too,
Fake artificial smells, too sweet, too strong,
Fresh pine leaves that just smell too green, too pure,
Roses that seek to cover all the world
With combined forces of a billion bulbs.

The two sides, one refuse and one perfume
Slither across the world in putrid waves.

 

Sang Yun Jee, otherwise known as Martin, studies in the Philippines as a sophomore in the International School Manila. He wants to use his various experiences to follow the path of English Literature. He is currently the poetry editor for a student-run magazine, The Mckinley Review.

SUBMIT to What Rough Beast via our SUBMITTABLE site.

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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