What Rough Beast

A poem a day by a different poet exploring and responding to our nation’s political reality.
Submit poems via our Submittable site.

What Rough Beast | Poem for May 26, 2017

Mary B. Moore
Texaco

The tanker truck bearing
Texaco’s red star on its barrel
turns the corner gingerly,
its driver peering
in the side-view mirror.
A Mustang sidles
up to drink, but the tanker
keeps angling away. The red
Dodge pickup idling beside it
doesn’t even try.

The two men who get out at the truck stop,
both wearing white tees and jeans, stretch
their arms and walk into the Sheetz.
They’re cut out crisply from sky:
the dry Central Valley air
sharpens every boundary.
The only blur wavers upwards
from the asphalt, the heat’s
visible purr.

Though the tank looks like a sideways silo,
its freight is combustion
not wheat. Does the red star betoken
explosion, or Texas?

The truck gradually reverses
and turns. It has a lumbering grace
like the large, slow man
from the wheat-gold
Malibu. He tours the narrow
aisles of the convenience store,
stooping and reaching,
back-stepping, a dance of looking
for cupcakes. His large straw hat brim
hasn’t blocked the burn. He’s red
with sun.

It’s all so opaque, so solid,
though the heat wavers up
from the truck’s lit barrel
like a spirit, an aura, while
the snout of the gas station’s
tank rifles the truck’s side.

 

Mary B. Moore is the author of Flicker (Broadkill River Press, 2016), winner of the Dogfish Head Poetry Award; the chapbook Eating the Light (Sable Books, 2016 ); and the poetry collection The Book of Snow (Cleveland State University Poetry Center, 1998). New  poems appear  in the Georgia Review, Poem/Memoir/Story, Nimrod, Cider Press Review, Coal Hill Review, Drunken Boat, Birmingham Poetry Review, and more.

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What Rough Beast | Poem for May 25, 2017

Robbie Gamble
There is an “I” in “WHITE”

right at the center, all sounds radiating outward from its core, the long vowel sound creating proud space for the architecture of the word. Tall and slender, lucid, perfect in its upright stance at the hub of all things. The word could not exist without the voweled sonic reach of the “I,” the remaining letters on their own would be just a damp puff crossing the lips with a “ftt!,” barely audible. Notice the letters relegated to the periphery, the “W” and the “E,” which could spell out the collective “WE” if they were not separated. These letters are complex, with angles and branches facing out in many different directions. The components of the “WE” are barricaded from the “I” by the henchmen letters “H” and “T,” erect and vigilant, vertical strokes protecting the “I,” with horizontal spacers to keep the outside world at bay. There is potential here; the “H” introduces a turbulence, a sense of living breath to the word, it could be moving into the profound question, “Why?” But the “T” cuts off that possibility by dropping its consonant chop; it could have created a “Whit,” an inconsequential trifle, were it not for the unappreciated labor of the trailing “E” straining to hoist the “I” skyward into all of its long-vowel glory. And the “I” just stands there, insulated from the tensions swirling all around it, blissful in its singularity. It does not feel alone, attended to by its acolytes, but it will never know the “WE” in all of our painful complexity, and we will never be able to reach through and disturb its safeguarded ego.

 

 

Robbie Gamble lives in Brookline, Massachusetts. He recently completed an MFA in poetry at Lesley University. When he is not preoccupied with image and line breaks, he works as a nurse practitioner caring for homeless people in Boston.

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What Rough Beast | Poem for May 24, 2017

Abigail Conklin
Pubic Maintenance

Why are women always
the crazy ones? Logic applies,
and I apply it. Logic says
he’s coming over so
I’m going to go shave now.
Right?

Though I’m crazy so
maybe I won’t.

But there are other women
who would hurriedly strip
out the hair—
fine, rough,
thin, sharp, straight—
if they hadn’t scheduled in
the doing already,
and I can’t blame them.

There are days when my wishing
to tear out my own fur is countered only
by the ferocity of my entitlement
to it. To that greediest of statements:
this is my body,
this is my blood.
This is the skin in which I stalk,
and men can have beards,
leg hair, a multi-tiered system
of societal oppression behind them
as they preside over the final supper
with arms raised,
but I can have this.
This hair between my legs,
beneath my arms, along
my lip. These conversations,
muttering and unintelligible as I walk,
wishing it were winter
and that I might disappear.

 

Abigail Conklin‘s poetry has appeared on The Bridge, a writer’s community website, and the blog Bonus Cut. She lives in New York City where she writes, frequents poetry readings, and works in curriculum publishing.

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What Rough Beast | Poem for May 23, 2017

Aimee Herman
nasty like janet or the way one feels after a seven day bath resistance but also like that moment when you figure out the perfect way to describe yourself

I still don’t quite get it, but I’ve got my socks on and I remembered to brush my teeth and my hair is long enough for you to know without taking a peek beneath my trousers and my voice and smooth and sorry and hip sway and.

I can sing to you about the kaleidoscope of the muscles in my body, but that’s not why.

I can give you a paper cut with the strength of my words bleeding through my organs, but you’ll probably forget to listen.

I’m not sure.

I’m not sure if I’m nasty because my version of femalia is like Lombard Street, all zig-zagged and out-of-breath.

You want me to stuff my Feminist deep inside my pockets, and fix you supper. You want me shaved and simplified. You want me pink. Knees pressed. Porridgy girl.

On the other side of Woman is me. Buzzed tongue and vague.

A faint of genitals and unfinished and easily bothered and trying trying trying NOT to apologize.

Maybe I’m nasty because of what I’ve done to men.
Or because I used to carry along a cash register held tightly between my legs. Or because I don’t need you to LIKE or swipe RIGHT me.

Am I nasty because I am educated?

Am I nasty because I am queer? Or because I vote? Or because I am pro-choice? Or because I am not in search of a whistle? Or because I do not SMILE because you asked me to? Or because I press my breasts down because I’d much prefer you notice my brain stem?

Or is it simply because you just don’t know what to do with allthis.

I don’t either, and maybe that’s why I am so nasty.

Because I am more than just a symbol on a bathroom door.
More than the color of Barbie dolls packaged like pills with the wrong portion size. More than a procreator. More than a billboard, airbrushed and starved.

I still don’t quite get it.
But maybe the point is, we are talking about it.
About what it is to be ourselves, every version, every twist that turns into a question mark.

And anyway, being nasty is far more interesting than nice.
Because finally, you’re paying attention.

 

Aimee Herman is the author of the poetry collections meant to wake up feeling (great weather for MEDIA, 2014), The Body Electric (CreateSpace, 2013), and to go without blinking (BlazeVOX, 2012). Aimee’s poems have appeared in journals including cream city review and BOMB and in the anthology Troubling the Line: Trans Genderqueer Poetry and Poetics. Nightboat Books, 2013). Aimee is a queer writer, performance artist, and writing/literature teacher at Bronx Community College.

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What Rough Beast | Poem for May 22, 2017

Antonio López
GI Joe’s Stretcher Visits Chuy for his Cinco Años

“Hello? Is anyone there?

“Dios te salve María llena eres de gracia el Señor es contigo.”

“We’re just here to ask a few questions.”

“Mariela, vete atrás del boiler con Hernán.”
“Ma, no te voy a dejarte aquí.”
“Amá, what’s going on?”
“Hernán, vete a tu cuarto, y cierra las cortinas.
Despierta tu hermanito.”
“Wha-Why?

“So-lo. Que-remos pre-gun-tar-les. Un-as co-sas.”

“Porque sí.”
“But who’s outside?”
Are they dropping off the bouncy house?!
This early?!”

“No-Nomás obedézcame!”

“Mrs. García, we know you’re there.”

“Amá no tienes que abrir la puerta.
Dijo la directora que si no has cometido ningún delito…”
“¿Pero qué tal si regresen?”
“Pues que regresen.
No has hecho nada.”

“Bendita tú eres entre todas la mujeres,
y bendito es el fruto de tu vientre…”

“¿Jesús? ¡Chuy! ¡Retírate de la puerta!”
“Mom! You really got me the G.I. Joe—”
“Hello son. Your mom’s going to go with us for a couple hours.”
“Are you Ace? But where’s your pilot helmet?
O-Or your jump suit?’

“Carson, check the backyard.
Floyd, you try the rooms. I’ll stay here.
Ma’am, is there anyone else with you?”

“Amá, who are they?

“Santa María Madre de Dios.”

“Ma’am?”

“Ruega por nosotros pecadores.”

“Ma’am, I asked you a question.”

“Que no cheqan el basement.
Madre adornada con la sábana del cielo,
oiga mi oración.”

“Forget it.
We’ll just get her an interpreter at the office.
Come on.”

“Don’t fucking touch her.
She ain’t do nothing!”

“Calm dow—
Young lady you need to sto—

“Get off!
Y’all some fucking cowards!”

Hey fellas, need one of y’all’s
hand restraining the girl!”

“We not the criminals! The fuck we do wrong?”
“Ahora en la hora.”
“Amá!”
“Ahora en la hora.”
“Amá snap out of it!”

“Hey Captain, heard some things
moving from the basement.”

“Por el amor de Dios,
it’s my little brother’s birthday!
You gonna take his mom when he’s five?!”

“¡Clara Mendoza! Por favor!
No puedo vivir sin—”

“Found another boy!
Looks older, in his teens!”

“De nuestra, de nuestra…”

“Maaaaaaa!”

“Wait wait Wilson let her go!
Think she might faint!

“She’s having a panic attack!
Please let me go!
She needs something sweet!”

“Mue-Muer—”

“There’s chocolate in her purse!”

“All right,
let the girl g—.
Ah shit!”

“Get back! I said GET BACK!”
Just give her some air!”

“Maa! Maa!”
“Dios te salv—…Dios te salv…”

“You pieces of shit!”

“Nora, we have a 10-43.
We’re at 240 Northwood Circle.

“Protect and serve mi culo!
Imma hit up every station
and sink your whole department!”

“Yes, we’re gonna need a rig.
Suspect’s unconscious.”

“Y’all ain’t got no heart! Y’all ain’t even let her breathe!
Are we even human to you?!”

“Mari, what happened to mama?”
“She’s….
she’s just sick.
We’re gonna take her to the hospital.”

“Sick? Oh…
Stretcher’s the GI Team’s doctor.
He’ll know what to do
Can I bring him?”

“OK…OK traetelo honey.”
“Hey mi’jo?”
“Yeah Marie-rie?”
“How would you like to meet a real-life Stretcher?”

 

Editor’s note: The seemless and usually unmarked switching between Spanish and English in the poems of Antonio López is an important and meaningful feature of his prosody. In the case of this poem, however, I wanted readers to be able to follow the gripping narrative, so I asked Antonio to provide a complete English translation and he agreed. The author’s own translation is presented in full below.

Antonio López
GI Joe’s Stretcher Visits Chuy for his Fifth Birthday

“Hello? Is anyone there?

“Hail Mary full of grace. The Lord is with you.”

“We’re just here to ask a few questions.”

“Mariela, go to the back of the boiler room with Hernán.”
“No, Ma; I won’t leave you here.”
“Mama, what’s going on?”
“Hernán, go to your room and close the curtains.
Wake up your little brother.”
“Wha-Why?

“So-lo. Que-remos pre-gun-tar-les. Un-as co-sas.”

“Because I said so.”
“But who’s outside?”
Are they dropping off the bouncy house?!
This early?!”

“Just do as I say!”

“Mrs. García, we know you’re there.”

“Mama, you don’t have to open the door.
The principal said that if you haven’t committed any crime…”
“But what if they come back?”
“Then let them come back!
You haven’t done anything wrong!”

“Blessed art thou amongst women,
and blessed is the fruit of thy womb…”

“¿Jesús? ¡Chuy! Get away from the door!”
“Mom! You really got me the G.I. Joe—”
“Hello son. Your mom’s going to go with us for a couple hours.”
“Are you Ace? But where’s your pilot helmet?
O-Or your jump suit?’

“Carson, check the backyard.
Floyd, you try the rooms. I’ll stay here.
Ma’m, is there anyone else with you?”

“Mama, who are they?

“Hail Mary, Mother of God.”

“Ma’am?”

“Pray for us sinners.”

“Ma’am, I asked you a question.”

“Please let them not check the basement.
Mother adorned with heaven’s shawl,
hear my prayer.”

“Forget it.
We’ll just get her an interpreter at the office.
Come on.”

“Don’t fucking touch her.
She ain’t do nothing!”

“Calm dow—
Young lady you need to sto—

“Get off!
Y’all some fucking cowards!”

Hey fellas, need one of y’all’s
hand restraining the girl!”

“We not the criminals! The fuck we do wrong?”
“And now at the hour.”
“Mama!”
“And now at the hour.”
“Mama snap out of it!”

“Hey Captain, heard some things
moving from the basement.”

“For the love of God,
it’s my little brother’s birthday!
You gonna take his mom when he’s five?!”

“Clara Mendoza! Please!
I cannot live without—”

“Found another boy!
Looks older, in his teens!”

“Of our, of our…”

“Maaaaaaa!”

“Wait wait Wilson let her go!
Think she might faint!

“She’s having a panic attack!
Please let me go!
She needs something sweet!”

“De-De—”

“There’s chocolate in her purse!”

“All right,
let the girl g—.
Ah shit!”

“Get back! I said GET BACK!”
Just give her some air!”

“Maa! Maa!”
“Hail Ma-…Hail Ma…”

“You pieces of shit!”

“Nora, we have a 10-43.
We’re at 240 Northwood Circle.

“Protect and serve my ass!
Imma hit up every station
and sink your whole department!”

“Yes, we’re gonna need a rig.
Suspect’s unconscious.”

“Y’all ain’t got no heart! Y’all ain’t even let her breathe!
Are we even human to you?!”

“Mari, what happened to mama?”
“She’s….
she’s just sick.
We’re gonna take her to the hospital.”

“Sick? Oh…
Stretcher’s the GI Team’s doctor.
He’ll know what to do
Can I bring him?”

“OK…OK bring it with you sweetheart.”
“Hey honey?”
“Yeah Marie-rie?”
“How would you like to meet a real-life Stretcher?”

 

Antonio López‘s poems have appeared or are forthcoming in PEN/America, Acentos Review, Hispanecdotes, Sapelo Square, and Sinking City. His nonfiction has appeared in TeenInk and The Chronicle. Antonio works at the intersections of language, faith, social justice movements, and education. His undergraduate thesis, Spic’ing into Existence, explored the concept of ethnopoetics as people of color’s artistic-political response to regimes of power. Originally from East Palo Alto, California, he is currently pursuing a Master in Fine Arts (poetry) at Rutgers University-Newark.

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What Rough Beast | Poem for May 21, 2017

Claire Wahmanholm
Plummet

light rain and governments falling
—Derek Walcott

spring: terror
and cherry trees
blooming helicopter
blades spiraling into
airspace into short-haired
lawns blade on blade
until the grass is unseen
unbreathing is green
on green on green
like wealth like sour
unswelled fruit in
an unwell mouth

as unwell months
pool like rotten light
like blood in a stagnant
leg like mud in
a stagnant lake

on which the rain
plummets (like lead
like bullets) and in
the strong and stronger
wind even buds
small twigs even

a raptor can be blown
out of the sky its
feathers so white
against the air which
is dark and solid
as a blackboard
against the dark sea
which is rising
to meet us which
is warming its
huge blue hands

 

Claire Wahmanholm‘s poems most recently appear or are forthcoming in Birdfeast, Bennington Review, The Collapsar, Newfound, New Poetry from the Midwest 2016, Bateau, Queen Mob’s Tea House, Memorious, The Kenyon Review Online, Handsome, Best New Poets 2015, Elsewhere, BOAAT, The Journal, Winter Tangerine, and DIAGRAM. Find her online at clairewahmanholm.com.

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What Rough Beast | Poem for May 20, 2017

Ina Roy-Faderman
In Case of False Flags: Instructions

Find a flag of many colors.
Watch the blue leach
into the earth.

Indigo is toxic
or is beautiful.
The human eye
can’t tell the difference.

We have made a world of patches,
mottled like a skin horse.

Avoid the twice-mended uniforms:
they can’t be quilted into a comforting whole.
From a distance, check the stitches—
white and waxy
like dental floss—
are they embedded in the collar
or into the flesh beneath?

This is not a question you should answer:
what is humped under that flag?

The rain burns
and over time can
fade the bands of blood
into the color of bone.

All that’s left is
a white scrap of silk
drooping from a stick,
surrendering to soot
and wind and
sand and sunlight.

You can’t break glass
for this emergency.
Instead:

Stand in front of a classroom.
Tell the children that primary colors
have been known to bleed
into one another.

 

Ina Roy-Faderman’s work has appeared or is forthcoming in Right Hand Pointing, If You Can Hear This: Poems in Protest of an American Inauguration (Sibling Rivalry Press, 2017), Transition: Poems in the Aftermath (Indolent Books, 2017), and elsewhere. Recent honors include Outstanding Poem (Richmond Anthology of Poetry) and a 2018 Pushcart Prize nomination. A native Nebraskan of Bengali heritage, Ina teaches bioethics for Oregon State University, is a fiction editor for Rivet Journal, and is the librarian at a school for gifted children. Further information can be found at inafelltoearth.com.

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What Rough Beast | Poem for May 19, 2017

Laura Winkelspecht
Nobody Dies Because They Don’t

—For the education of Raul Labrador

Nobody dies because they don’t have access to healthcare.
Nobody dies because they don’t get enough to eat.
Nobody dies because they don’t have a warm place to sleep.

Nobody dies because they don’t have the will to live.
Nobody dies because they don’t start wars they fight in.
Nobody dies because they don’t know enough to be scared.

Nobody dies because they don’t look both ways.
Nobody dies because they don’t make good decisions.
Nobody dies because they don’t stay silent during injustice.

Nobody lives in this world.

 

Laura Winkelspecht‘s work has appeared in Clementine Poetry Journal, NEAT, and One Sentence Poems, among others. She is a poet and writer from Wisconsin who writes with the hope of finding some lightning among the lightning bugs. Follow her on Twitter @lwinkelspecht.

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What Rough Beast | Poem for May 18, 2017

William Prindle
The Waning Moon We Trust With Our Lives

At dusk the trees so brilliant green
In the western sun merge back
Into the dark again

Some young male’s machine shoots
Its backfires down the frontage road
Spooking the mares again

Shadows flaring over the fence line
Spreading that terror across the county
As in the days of the Klan

Whose ghosts try yet again really yet again
To stack up their fear like Depression dams
Against this innocent river

This implacable water carrying the Lovings
The Kings and Merediths and Evers
Rolling down as a mighty stream

Until justice is only the silence falling again
Over the land when the torches go back
To their caves again

Until now when the herd grazes again
Under the waning moon that we trust
With our lives to rise again.

 

William R. Prindle’s poems have appeared in The Pennsylvania Review, Written River, The Echo World, The Live Poets Society, and elsewhere. He lives in Fluvanna County, Virginia, with his wife and three horses.

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What Rough Beast | Poem for May 17, 2017

Addison Bale
Chimera

I am so curious about the guillotine and the spectacle of its function
its member I should say its unthinking blade that I imagine
is silken through howls and howls very blunt to reason
very sharp very sharp for sure. I imagine myself naked on a pedestal
(though I’m not sure that’s standard) if my body would look fiendish
up there. Wriggly. If my dead-duck penis would look dead and silly.
If it would still be an object albeit changed object of sexual potential
or now a tube, a hilarious notion. If my belly would bloat like a dung beetle
before the drop from gas and lonesomeness. If my ass and legs
would be sludged with my body’s new vacancy.
If jerk or slice. Shrivel or stiffen. Growth over between gore
resisting sheen of metal rusting newly eventual rust rust and rust-
colored there they’d watch that thing pool in a bulrush basket.

*

I am so curious about the Marseillaise. To have a deadly sin
and to accept, yes, it will come malaise despite more eyes.
Pleased with fantasies of the ownerless body and a good clean finish
they screech ovation! And, would they? Touch their fingers
to their necks? Prey for their vulnerable parts, for their rubbing
fear of reputations. For prisons. I would have been made
a benign maladie of the brotherly night would have held my own
body into my own arms writing wholly in love wholly a part of
and abandoning embarrassment, penning lastly
the milliner in spite of judgment for a laugh.

 

Addison Bale‘s poems have appeared or are forthcoming in Wedgie Magazine and the Pomeroy Poets Anthology. He is the founder of the Lit Club at the Light Club poetry reading series in Burlington, VT, and now lives in New York City.

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