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 November 12, 2017

Cody Walker
Ten Short Poems

1. Trump’s Twitter Account

bans
trans
folks from serving in the military.
Then goes back to bashing Hillary.

I recount this in rhyme
because I’m
in the habit of doing so.
And I’ve been viewing, oh,

a thousand ghastly tweets.
And I’m no Keats.
(I am, incidentally,
a low-rent E. C. Bentley.)

2. Everybody Must Have Been a Spy

America it’s that bad Sessions.
That Sessions that Sessions and that Pence. And that Sessions.
The Sessions wants to eat us alive. The Sessions’s power mad. He wants to take our system of checks and balances from out our government.
That no good. Ugh.

3. Trump 2020

He dug Slovenians and Czechs and had a slight Jesus complex. (He once tweeted, about himself, “He is risen!”)

It’s good that he’s in prison.

4. Donny-Wan Kenobi, Jr.

Donny: “This isn’t the collusion you’re looking for.”

Mueller: “No, actually, this is the one. A million thanks.”

5. Office of Government Ethics

The GOP, to Walter M. Shaub:
“Just, umm, daub
a little cleaner on this mound of shit.
That should take care of it.”

6. Mike Pence, to His Wife, at 9 p.m.

“The sword stands ready.”

7. Joke

Q: Why can’t Donald Trump change a light bulb?

A: Because he’s too dumb!

8. Mad Trump’s America

He thought he saw a Firework
Go BLAMMO in the sky:
He looked again, and found it was
A guy in camo. Why?
“He thinks our country’s under threat.
A Muslim’s gonna die.”

9. I’m Panicking, and I Blame Donald Trump!

Because the first forty-eight years
of my life were pretty carefree.

See, now, the way my hands tremble?
See how I’m pushing back hot tears?

“Almost nutso”: I resemble
that remark. Trump did this to me.

10. A Year Later

Everything looks exactly the same.
The snow’s snow: it’s not concentration-camp ash.
The egg-salad sandwich on my plate is excellent!
Still, in this almost-winter of our discontent,
a villain twirls his figurative mustache.
A gun, over the horizon, takes aim.

 

Cody Walker‘s most recent poetry collection is The Trumpiad (Waywiser, 2017). All proceeds from the book are being donated to the ACLU. He’s also the author of two earlier collections: The Self-Styled No-Child (Waywiser, 2016) and Shuffle and Breakdown (Waywiser, 2008). His work has appeared in The New York Times Magazine, The Yale Review, Slate, The Best American Poetry (2015 and 2007), and Resistance, Rebellion, Life: Fifty Poems Now (Knopf, 2017), edited by Amit Majmudar. Walker lives with his family in Ann Arbor.

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What Rough Beast | Poem for November 11, 2017

Zachary Taylor Knox
(anxiety)

We the people heard their songs from the cotton fields, their sorrow haunted our confused rage
We held power in each hour of each year
We stomped their hopes but never their fears
We worried what if they would revolt next year?
We kept them down even when
We gave them freedom
We turned up our noses because they weren’t like
We they had developed their own frightening identity so what if they were free
We are better
We are sophisticated
We wear turtleneck sweaters
We wore white hoods because they lived in hoods and looked scary,
We separated churches, schools, and history
We assured ourselves it was right despite the guilty feeling deep down inside
We shoved that away by starting a charity
We sold the idea they needed our help because
We told ourselves they weren’t smart and that was the science
We learned at the university the professor assigned
We to read in a book, but despite the generous morality
We showed them, they assembled against
We and cried for equality but what of the freedom
We granted to the slaves? ungrateful knaves
We sacrificed brothers, fathers, sons in the great civil war, what more could they want?
We tried to teach them respect but they became upset and riot flipping cars in the streets
We tried to give them culture by teaching nietzsche and wagner but they made their own
We bought it and appreciated at a distance even listened to the lessons they preached
We kept acceptance just out reach by turning it into our own
We kept them working for free in that way
We of course made sure they had a home and food to atone
We want to fight for their right to be left alone but they reject our help
We just want them to keep the homes and food
We slaved 9 to 5 to give them projects while
We sat in our nice suburban homes
We just don’t understand they have their freedom they have their equality
We made them a month of history yet still they bemoan
We even gave them their own identity politically, African american
We are real sorry
We humbly regret that
We just don’t get it yet
THEY are the ones trying to get us through our slavery for how can
We set them free if
We have never been free?
We are blind see it’s not them, why, you, me, i, he, she, or whatever identity it is WE

 

Zachary Taylor Knox’s poems have appeared in Ealain and Penny Ante Feud. He lives in Fort Madison, Iowa.

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What Rough Beast | Poem for November 10, 2017

Anthony Cappo
Sitting In A Beach Café in Tulum In the Last Hours of the Obama Administration

Look homeward, angel, but
a thorn’s in my eye.

The braying in the capital a foghorn
shouting down all

that’s decent and kind. Old wine
in old thin skin.

And here in Mexico, single again,
stitching pieces of my life—

fissured, worn resist being put back
together. A child’s rag doll

thrown out a window. Strung
from the rafters like a quisling king

after liberation. And in Washington
gilded pageantry, staggering lies.

My Facebook feed reads
like an online guestbook

for a dear departed. Our parting president
says we will survive this.

But I shiver. Dread
leaching through

like toxic sludge. The hole in my life
matching the one in our polity.

We will resist, but things can unravel
like a cheap red tie.

We try, but the brown-boot creature
in the rearview

can overtake. All we have is a patched-up
Ford and a pedal.

We floor it, hoping once more
to have enough

juice to outrun
its storming pursuit.

 

Anthony Cappo is the author of My Bedside Radio (Deadly Chaps Press, 2016).  His poems have appeared in THRUSH, Prelude, Connotation Press: An Online Artifact, Stone, Pine Hills Review, Yes Poetry, and other publications. Cappo received his MFA in creative writing from Sarah Lawrence College.  Originally from South Jersey, he now resides in New York City. Learn more at anthonycappo.com.

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What Rough Beast | Poem for November 9, 2017

Sylvia Byrne Pollack
What the Deaf Woman Doesn’t Want to Hear About

The deaf woman is distressed by the news of the day.
World events upset the deaf woman.
On the Day of Atonement the president blames hurricane victims for not
watching him on TV.
They have no power.
They are dying but that drama distracts, redirects focus from opulent gold
toilets to Americans wading in sewage, waiting for help.
They missed the subordinate clause that defines them as losers—house
gone, clothes gone, food gone, gasoline gone, health gone, jobs
gone, life going, going, gone.
The deaf woman sends cash to the Red Cross, sees red whenever she hears
another egregious statement from the White-wash House.
But what should the hurricane victims expect—they speak Spanish, live in
a tropical territory, an island in the middle of an ocean for christ’s
sake, not dangling penis-like from the continental United States.
Their golf course was a loser.

 

Sylvia Byrne Pollack’s work has appeared in Floating Bridge Review, Crab Creek Review, Clover, and Antiphon, among other journals. A recipient of the 2013 Mason’s Road Winter Literary Award and a finalist for the 2014 inaugural Russell Prize, she is currently writing a series of “Deaf Woman Poems” inspired by Marvin Bell’s “Dead Man Poems.”

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What Rough Beast | Poem for November 8, 2017

MinSoo Kang
Burial in Petrichor

tombstones take the shape
of tree stumps
I see the cracks webbing
around on their surface
dried mud in summer

a woman with no face kneels
like a broken harp
the grass around her are aged
strands of hair

in petrichor
the smell of dried maple
and thunderstorm
rise from the ground
the hornbills scour for food

on the same ground
i buried regret like a child
burying his pet goldfish
with a plastic shovel

 

MinSoo Kang is a junior at International School Manila. He is pursuing his interest in Sport Science and Psychology. He started writing seriously just this year. He works with the families of the victims of Duterte’s drug war in the Philippines. “Burial in Petrichor” was the very first poem he wrote.

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What Rough Beast | Poem for November 7, 2017

Susan Landgraf
The Jester Poses

What else is he to do
When he’s in a lineup on the page
With the father of David,
King of Israel, and Jesus, the teacher,
The Christ dead and risen?

What else can he do
On days when he’s positioned
In a mall, a city or country,
When only the comedians
Tell it like it is.

What else can he do
When he’s not a hierophant, king
Of swords or prince of hearts,
When his job is, after all,
Called to castle, Senate chambers

Or court dressed in motley
With cap, bells and baubles,
This retainer hired so the others
Might appear to be wise?

 

Susan Landgraf is the author of What We Bury Changes the Ground (Tebot Bach, 2017), Other Voices (Finishing Line Press, 2009), and Student Reflection Journal for Student Success (Pearson Education, 2005). Her poems, essays, and articles have appeared in Prairie Schooner, Poet Lore, Margie, Nimrod, The Laurel Review, Ploughshares, and other journals.  published She has taught at Highline College and at Shanghai Jiao Tong University. She lives in Auburn, Wash.

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What Rough Beast | Poem for November 6, 2017

Adam Zhou
Stale Goods

Four years should pass
for one to adjust to the darkness
of unblinking eyes
and even if a man
were to stare at the irides:
a small pair of mirrors
he would discover
not his reflection
but a yawning hole spilling
back into the river
now as clear as the water
now as rippled as the scars

of a body whose hands
never offered
pink carnations.

 

Adam Zhou’s poetry has appeared in The Rising Phoenix Review and The Kill List Chronicles. In 2017, Zhou won a National Silver Medal for personal essay and memoir from the Scholastic Art & Writing Awards (presented by the Alliance for Young Artists & Writers), the longest-running and most prestigious recognition program in the United States for creative teens in grades 7–12. He is a sophomore at the International School Manila.

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What Rough Beast | Poem for November 5, 2017

Chaya Bhuvaneswar
Gordimer at Dusk

There was a ripped basketball net, just a few threads hanging from metal
Well-hung, perpetually ready, moving in the breeze or in the gust of wind created by people swishing.
There was the hard thwack of basketballs metallic from the air in them, punching down concrete.
Ripping away at the rubber.
I sat unnoticed for hours, bench under shade, shade near the grass, grass holding snakes, for all I knew,
And there was Doris Lessing in my hand, and singing grass and terrifying lust that leads to death,
And braided, cryptic Indian women in Gordimer’s book, their tension crackled in the plastic of library coverings.
I read these books and learned about terror.
Not the kind that galvanized rallies, made blood electric, bouncing off fences,
But terror, silent, sitting by itself on a park bench, cold and crying, old before its time,
Defining “writer” as a woman I could never be.

 

Chaya Bhuvaneswar’s  work has appeared in Nimrod, Bangalore Review, Blue Lake Review and the Asian American Literary Review. She is lives in the US with her family and is a practicing physician at work on a novel.

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What Rough Beast | Poem for November 4, 2017

Zachary Taylor Knox
(poor concentration)

come to the wagon stall at the carnival and
graze upon the prescribed crystal ball
to see what litters the lobes and halls
of the mind served on a silver
platter fed to the cannibal chatter
talk is cheap they bleat, lucky for us
someone bleeps the bad words that
could raise some concerns with the
parents that have easy to hit nerves
got to protect the children from the
danger of words that we heard from
the mouths of our parents it’s a
competition to see whose childhood
was worse they put it on tv in the form
of pornographic tv but mark twain didn’t
speak kindly about the african american
community so he shouldn’t be taught

they all speak fast enough to make the head spin
in this land where the grass is always greener no
one wins and everything done is counted in a swear jar
as a sin

 

Zachary Taylor Knox’s poems have appeared in Ealain and Penny Ante Feud. He lives in Fort Madison, Iowa.

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What Rough Beast | Poem for November 3, 2017

Ann Chadwell Humphries
Very Fine People. On Both Sides.

He says, then waves it away like a fly.
A flow chart of infrastructure furls

from the glass of Secretary Chow’s
blue-suited smile. Other cabinet members

study their shoes. His words fracture
their masks. Even

the marble floor shows cracks.
I cannot look away. The fissure lures

me like a keyhole. I recoil at the odor
of ugliness, pledge to do something.

I’ll start with myself.

 

Ann Chadwell Humphries’s have appeared in Jasper Magazine and on The Comet, the bus system of the Central Midlands Regional Transit Authority in Richland and Lexington counties in the Columbia metropolitan area of South Carolina (an initiative of Columbia’s inaugural poet laureate, Ed Madden). Winner of a 2017 Into the Fire scholarship from The Sun magazine and recipient of a Jasper Magazine Emerging Voice award, she lives and writes in Columbia, SC.

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