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 September 8, 2017

George Warui
Money

Is God
And merciful
And cures
And protects
And shades
And cures
And grows
And cures
And for
The millions
And cures
And cures
And brings forth joy
And brings forth goods
And brings forth
Answers
And wars
And goods

 

George Warui is a Kenyan poet.

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What Rough Beast | Poem for September 7, 2017

D. Dina Friedman
Lessons in Portaging

An American Revolution is unfolding.
—Anna Kirwan

I.
Don’t worry about balance
or the nasty roots—beware of the boat
blocking your vision, the leader
pulling you by the hull.

II.
Disregard expectation
of solid ground. Walk right
through the muck:
path of truth, justice,
the American swamp.
A footprint’s waiting for you,
round and filled with slime.

III.
Invention is crucial
in this wilderness of loons.
Save your bare butt; stake
the mosquito net over the toilet pit.
Squeeze the spying flies
Wring their leaky bodies
into shit.

IV.
If the campsites are taken
beg to buddy up.
This isn’t rude; it’s merely socialism

V.
Pay no attention
to thunder, the scary man
behind the curtain;
he’s only in your head.
All you’ve heard in days
are the cries of birds.

VI.
Bathe in the lake. Disinfect
the drinking water, and remember,
words can save us: Speak softly
to the bear and back away.
Make sure to keep clanging the pot.

 

D. Dina Friedman’s poems have appeared in Calyx, Common Ground Review, Lilith, New Plains Review, Negative Capability, Bloodroot, Inkwell, Pacific Poetry and Fiction Review, Tsunami, The Sun, Jewish Currents, Anderbo, San Pedro River Review, Mount Hope, and Rhino. She directs the Call-To-Action website 3NoTrump (3 quick actions you can take each week to help stop the madness.) Dina holds an MFA from Lesley University in Cambridge, Mass., and teach at the University of Massachusetts Amherst.

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What Rough Beast | Poem for September 6, 2017

Andrew K. Peterson
Love Parade

What’s with that row of black cars snaking from your dried-lilac-behind-the-ears distraction drama, a lonely lunch in the rational park? One moment bright enough to fill the half-frame with a hawk on chain/link, the next a sleazy midnight retrospective of the Empire State’s grittier days: each moral foyer’s lit a-flicker with little drunken siren jokes, glittery day-for-nights to jump the hitch off your shadow. The feels you’re outside of, at home without, the con/stella ruins coupled with ivory char sketches of Tuileries dresses and high hat revelers. Cut to: a daughter explains G-Chat as rupture in the disco scene: “My sainted aunt! Sainted Donna Summer, I remember yesterday’s revelry beveraged under potted spine!” infamously flushed in a synth laden gold room with disintegrating lusters, glitch-ridden electrostatic tweety mumbles. I feel a last dance coming on: conga line in mourning filling up emptiness, a stop bath peopled in unfinished neon, faces hungry without recourse. The heart-as-usual grid and groove was on the up, the feel was off. Thus we turn to the streets in these times of treble. We tune these streets.

 

Andrew K. Peterson is the author of The Big Game Is Every Night (Locofo Chaps, 2017), Anonymous Bouquet (Spuyten Duyvil, 2015), and bonjour meriwether and the rabid maps (Fact-Simile, 2011). His work appears in Emergency Index 2012 (Ugly Duckling Presse) and has been featured in museum exhibits and performance projects. He edits the online literary journal summer stock and lives in Boston.

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What Rough Beast | Poem for September 5, 2017

Liz Ahl
Bodies of Evidence

National security advisor H.R. McMaster showed President Trump a black-and-white 1972 photo of Afghan women in miniskirts in an effort to persuade him to keep U.S. forces in Afghanistan.
—News item, August 2017

Again, they make their case with our bodies,
on our bodies, through our bodies.

Again they make promises with our bodies,
to our bodies, a thousand years now.

Again they make evidence of our bared legs—
this time our legs prove the existence of freedom;

other times our bodies are evidence offered to justify
their civilizing torture chambers, their liberating

holocausts, their death by a thousand cuts
by a thousand ways a woman’s body is not hers—

evidence that they couldn’t have raped us, not
when we were showing them those legs—

It’s true our bodies are made of history, our bodies
make history, they make history upon our bodies

which are screens, which are machines they point
in different directions, hold at different angles to the light,

but which—like history— they still cannot
fully comprehend or command.

 

Liz Ahl is the author of Home Economics (Seven Kitchens Press, 2016); Talking About the Weather (Seven Kitchens, 2012, “Summer Kitchen” series); Luck (Pecan Grove, 2010), winner of the New Hampshire Literary Awards “Reader’s Choice” in Poetry Award in 2011; and A Thirst That’s Partly Mine, winner of the 2008 Slapering Hol Press chapbook contest. Her poems have appeared recently or are forthcoming in Able Muse, Measure, Cutthroat, and Rappahannock Review. Liz has been awarded residencies at Jentel, Playa, The Kimmel Harding Nelson Center for the Arts, and The Vermont Studio Center. She lives in New Hampshire.

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What Rough Beast | Poem for September 4, 2017

Zachary Taylor Knox
Tremor

this country of white children confounds me,
they cried for liberty while they enslaved those
were already happy to be free, all for their overlord’s
favor so HE would have labor for free to
increase the his luxurious property
these white kids never needed chains
they volunteered for their slavery
all they needed was the illusion of someday
being a part of the institution that rode workers
to their graves
when the dream finally as all dreams do fades
they cry out like babies because their world is
empty and gray, so they chase and tree their oppressors
they claim was the aggressor, silence the enlightened
few that protest the absurdity of the feud
all because of the petty fear they might lose their hot wings
and beer the next year

 

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 September 3, 2017

Marc J. Cid
During My First Visit to the Pacific Northwest

Is this air clean
or just cold?
I’ve wobble wandered under
Los Angeles city smog for so long
I don’t know if I know
what clean air smells like,
can’t tell if I can tell
how clean air flows
through my respiratory.

Are the ingredients of this meal fresh
or is the price tag and restaurant ambiance
high class cash cost enough for me to be willing
to assume freshness?

Are these media casting choices representative
or simulating diversity by including the bare min-
imum of underrepresented min-
ority groups to exceed
our current gauge for tokenism?

Is this relationship mutually fulfilling
or just not overtly toxic?

Am I lazy, or actually depressed?

Is this society serving the best interests of all
its members
or just claiming it is and redirecting the burden
of failing responsibility
onto those whose shoulders they’ve sculpted
into scapegoat?

Is this government functional and prosocial
or just less flagrantly corrupt than other elsewhere
governments and I’m so used to hearsaying “others have it worse”
that I’m not used to wondering how what directly affects me
could be better?

Am I depressed, or just lazy?

Is this relationship mutually enriching
or just not deliberately toxic?

I don’t know if I know
Can’t tell if I can tell;
is this air clean
or just cold?

 

Marc J. Cid is the author of Theatrical Release, a chapbook published in 2017. His poems have appeared in Cadence Collective, The Black Napkin, East Jasmine Review, and Incandescent Mind, as well as in the anthologies Short Poems Ain’t Got Nobody to Love (2016) and Snorted the Moon and Doused the Sun (2017), both published by For the Love of Words Collective and edited by Raundi K. Moore-Kondo. Marc works with a media company, lives in Downey, California, and can often be found performing at various poetry open mic nights throughout Southern California.

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What Rough Beast | Poem for September 2, 2017

Barbara Reynolds
Aleppo Colors

Nothing green can be seen
in rubble as gray as a blueless day

not a tree not a bush
not a blade of grass grows

where white helmets probe
the debris for ashen limbs
and bloodied bodies.

 

Barbara Reynolds’s work has appeared in The Avocet. She is a retired high school math teacher and an instructor in the Graduate School of Education at Lesley University in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

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What Rough Beast | Poem for September 1, 2017

George Warui
Killer

Is the man
And the tear
Of the alien
And the ear of the thea
And the mawa
And the lopha
And killer of the man
And a man of Riviera
And the say of the proud
And cures of the aisle
And for the proud and vex
And cures of the thu
And cures of the killer

 

George Warui is a Kenyan poet.

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What Rough Beast | Poem for August 31, 2017

Amy Gordon
Wall

Oh, you can never bring in a wall, what say you, Bottom?
—William Shakespeare

In the halls
There are walls
Where portraits hang
In the walls
There are ears
That hear the gone-wrong
Songs of Senators
Something about a wall
Keeping in keeping out
Keeping out keeping in
A lumpy wall
A humpty-dumpty wall
A yo-no-hablo-espanol-ish wall
A stone wall
A stoned wall
A wall for stoning
A wall gone a-wol
A weeping, wailing wall
Keeping in
Keeping out
Let’s build a wall
It’s a well-known fact
No one can waltz over a wall
No one can fox trot over a wall
No one can hip hop over a wall
A wall is to be clambered over
Watch out
You’ll be shot
At the top
Which is the wall
I wonder
Safest to scale
The one in the garden
The one in the meadow
The one in the desert
Which wall is older
The one with the boulders
Or the one made of glass
Well, the ceilings are glass
So why not the walls?
We can shatter them all

 

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 August 30, 2017

Andrew K. Peterson
Call Script

Hello Senator,
Piercing and apportioned
Below the lazing drones we summer
In the consequence of keeping
Full charge with the real Reality
Winner. Senator, dinosaurs are somewhere
Rooting for us, —the fables of Faubus,
Foibles of gooble gobble—
Bird-ghost bodies & bone maps,
Some pleasanter moments in the century of
CSPAN community access.
No one’s in charge, Senator, the situation’s
The boss. If you do not ring the bell
and no one’s on the platform this train
Can’t stop won’t stop. Theeese eyes, aaaare crying,
Senator. These eyes have seen a lot of loves but
They’re never gonna see another one like I
Had with you, Senator. Only love’s infinite
Divisions and finite indivisibles remain, a minor
Limit in ancient imitation of democracy. If only
I could live off the ice cream money,
Safe and insured, unshaven and couth.
Theeese yeses, I shall not wait to hang upon
The count of your crook and starry vote, Senator.
I shall raise the black flag, and burn in white,
Unplug me but from rainbow watts and nettles.
Bank balance on sea snails to lay their eggs in moonlight,
Unsheathe this trusty conch and uncork its wild pitches to
Signal a flask of mermaid senators to swim ruggedly ashore.

 

Author’s Note: This poem was my call script for messages I left on the Washington office voicemails of Republican Senators Susan Collins, Dean Heller, and Rand Paul in advance of Affordable Health Care Appeal vote while standing at the edge of Cambridge’s Annual Citywide Dancy Party on June 30, 2017.

 

Andrew K. Peterson is the author of The Big Game Is Every Night (Locofo Chaps, 2017), Anonymous Bouquet (Spuyten Duyvil, 2015), and bonjour meriwether and the rabid maps (Fact-Simile, 2011). His work appears in Emergency Index 2012 (Ugly Duckling Presse) and has been featured in museum exhibits and performance projects. He edits the online literary journal summer stock and lives in Boston.

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