What Rough Beast

A poem a day by a different poet exploring and responding to our nation’s political reality.
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What Rough Beast | Poem for February 1, 2018

Topaz Winters

What My Mother Said to Me the First Time I Was Chosen for a Random Security Check at the Airport (Part 1)

everything you are
can & will be used against you

/

What My Mother Said to Me the First Time I Was Chosen for a Random Security Check at the Airport (Part 2)

Let me elaborate.
This is the one fear I cannot save you from: they
will always choose you. It isn’t fair,
which makes it the truth. You
with your girlhood skin: brown is the color
of bloodstained, color
we don’t speak of in present tense.
Benediction in touch again & again. It’s past time
you learned to put your fear on airplane mode,
erase your own tongue. You must convince them
that every word you speak is not foreign,
which is to say: is not an anagram of death.
You’re a storyteller, my love.
Tell the tale they want to hear, the one
that starts with guilty until proven innocent,
the one that ends in confessional.
In this place where you’ve made the mistake
of breathing, it does not matter how small
you make yourself. My love,
I know you’ve done nothing wrong.
Still & again you must hold your peace
in your mouth. Nothing left to lose
but your limbs, your folding wreckage.
Close your eyes when they touch you.
Pray to the wrong gods.
Try to get out before boarding time.
I’ll be waiting for you on the other side.

 

Topaz Winters is the author of the poetry collections Heaven or This (2016), Monsoon Dream (Platypus Press, 2016), and poems for the sound of the sky before thunder (Math Paper Press, 2017). Her work has appeared in journal including Cosmonauts AvenueGlassRust + MothWildness, and Winter Tangerine. Winters is editor-in-chief and creative director at Half Mystic Press. An actor as well as a writer, Winters appears in the film Supernova (2017), directed by Ishan Modi.

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What Rough Beast | Poem for January 31, 2018

Justin Shin
Buffer

the depth of the woods
the yawning gaps between the trees
yearn for injury
go there
throw your words towards the sky thinning out
of clouds
rage
weep
but expect no audience
the firm timber stalks
will soak up tears and evening dew alike
the creeping moss
burrow in your footsteps
all to be gone by next morning

 

Justin Shin is a sophomore studying at the International School of Manila in the Philippines. He enjoys using literature as a tool to explore the many eccentric and beautiful facets of the world. He writes news articles frequently for the school publication Bamboo Telegraph. He also loves music.

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What Rough Beast | Poem for January 30, 2018

Mary Meriam
Airstrikes in April

Wind off the lake is winding through the trees,
lifting the wings of bird and butterfly,
tickling the tiny flowers, and my knees,
this season’s first bare skin outside, and I,
rich with the pollen, thick and silent, sigh
with every cedar bough and wispy cloud,
the forest on the ground, the distant sky.

The forest wind blows very loud, so loud,
so strong, it shakes the lake and sky, a sound
that muffles other sounds and makes them seem
like muted cries. It roars and lays a shroud
on daily living, makes it like a dream,
and turns it to a war inside the mind,
unsafe and insecure, no treaty signed.

 

Mary Meriam is the founder of Lavender Review, cofounder of Headmistress Press, editor of Irresistible Sonnets, and author of The Lillian Trilogy. Her poems have been published by The New York Times, the Poetry Foundation, Oxford University Press, National Public Radio, Penguin Random House, University Press of New England, Seal Press, and many literary journals.

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What Rough Beast | Poem for January 29, 2018

Vivian Wagner
Marie Antoinette Visits Paris, Texas

I don’t know what Ford F-150s are,
honestly—quel est ce bruit?
and I can’t find any powder
around here. I’ve only seen
these things called cowboy hats, and
they’re far too small to cover my
wilting, muddied pouf.
It’s hot, I’m tired, and I want
to go home, but there’s nothing
left for me there.
Maybe I’ll stop in a bar,
order a whiskey, kick up my
blistered feet, wipe the
dust from my slippers.
Me. A drink. This afternoon.
A dust storm blowing in,
here at the end of all roads.
It’s the most a one-time
dauphine could ask for.
But let me just say, for the
record, before I knock a
few back, that I’m sorry to
everyone I stepped on.
Je ne l’ai pas fait exprès.

 

Vivian Wagner’s is the author of the poetry collection The Village (Kelsay Books, 2017) and the memoir Fiddle: One Woman, Four Strings, and 8,000 Miles of Music (Citadel-Kensington, 2010). Her work has appeared in Muse /A Journal, Forage Poetry JournalPittsburgh Poetry ReviewMcSweeney’s Internet Tendency, Creative Nonfiction, The Atlantic, The Ilanot Review, Silk Road Review, Zone 3, Eyedrum Periodically, 3QR, and other publications. Wagner is an associate professor of English at Muskingum University in New Concord, Ohio.

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What Rough Beast | Poem for January 28, 2018

Marjorie Moorhead
The Wisdom of Geese

Do they know, before they go?
That they’ll stick together;
watching out for one another?
A feathered band of brothers-and-others.

Are they willing to circle the wagon
if one becomes a drag on
group flight?
Such a beautiful sight,

the shaped formation.
Flying in unison to shared destination.
Soaring as one to reach far-away shelter;
fleeing not “shelter in place” and “active shooter”;

they’re seeking climate that can sustain their group.
Cooperation, camaraderie’s the coup.
Do they know, before they go
away from ice, sleet, snow, what it takes to let peace grow?

 

Marjorie Moorhead‘s poem “Starlight in My Pocket”  appeared in the HIV Here & Now project annual run-up to World AIDS Day in 2017. Her poem “Wandering the Anthropocene” is included in the anthology A Change of Climate (Independently published, 2017) edited by Sam Illingworth and Dan Simpson to benefit the Environmental Justice Foundation. Her poems will appear in the anthologies Birchsong: Poetry Centered in Vermont,  Vol. 2 (Blueline Press, 2018) and in the Opening Windows Fourth Friday Poets collection forthcoming from Hobblebush Press in 2018. Marjorie lives in New Hampshire near the Vermont border.

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What Rough Beast | Poem for January 27, 2018

Day Merrill
A Valentine for Donald Trump

Red and white stripes,
White stars on blue—
I love this country.
What about you?

On this of all days, I should remember Love, as in
Love Thy Neighbor/Love Thine Enemies (one and the same).
For Canada, the US is a neighbor run amok,
hard enough to like, much less love these days.

But I am American, too, and my heart bleeds
red as the stripes on the flag
of the country I left,
but never abandoned.

The poets said it best: “Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold.”
I feel like Yeats’s falcon, flung into a vortex—
buffeted by winds I might have noticed had I looked—
the falconer nowhere in sight.

Poetry is the only thing that saves me; the news is too awful—
the best of us lacking conviction,
the passionate intensity of the worst
a hot fire destroying everything in its path towards anarchy.

Poetry and Love, the love invoked by
the melancholy, long, withdrawing roar that drowns faith,
or leaves it stranded on Dover Beach, gasping
like the whales that let themselves—or worse—make themselves die.

There is an eternal note of sadness in human misery
now as then, and we are
tempest-tossed pebbles thrown against the shore
by unrelenting tides of woe.

Any yet. Despite whatever ignorant armies
clash by night, there is the promise of dawn.
Whatever rough beast slouches toward Bethlehem
or Washington to be born is a creature of darkness

and light will prevail. It may take many dawns,
years or decades of stony sleep vexed to nightmare,
but let us be true to Love and to one another
and elect to savor life’s joys while we endure its sorrows.

 

Day Merrill’s poems have appeared in The Binnacle, Halcyon Magazine, HIV Here & Now, Poems in the Aftermath, The Journal of Contemporary Rural Social Work, Tin Roof Press and Quick Brown Fox as well as in the Collingwood Public Library Writers Group anthology Musings. After a career as an English teacher and a university administrator, she became a career coach. Raised in New England and a former long-time resident of New York City, Merrill lives on the shores of Lake Huron’s Georgian Bay in Collingwood, Ontario, with her husband and a rescued dog and cat.

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What Rough Beast | Poem for January 26, 2018

Devon Balwit
Of No Account

It is not mine. Do not accept it.
—Sylvia Plath

Small fry, the courier,
expendable,

free to circumnavigate
his one streetlamp,

bleak face mirroring concrete,
accreted trash,

master of shrugs, slight
to definite,

a catalogue of rough trade,
sniffing for blows,

dodging one smack into
the next.

 

Devon Balwit is a writer/teacher from Portland, Oregon. Her poems of protest have appeared previously in What Rough Beast 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 January 25, 2018

Marissa Glover
Mirror, Mirror (from Daily Affirmations for Dictators)

Don’t let a label get to you. Forget
about Type A Personality—who cares?
Welcome Anal Retentive; celebrate
Captain Controlling—what do they know?

You’re a genius. Don’t let people push
your buttons. Little Hitler is hyperbole,
an appeal to extreme. You know
ad hominem can’t hurt you.

Let them throw their sticks
and stones. In the end, winning
is all that matters. Remember
what Étienne taught you. This
is war. Repeat after me:
On n’est jamais servi si bien
que par soi-même. Say it
again.Like you mean it.

You’ve always been a wild card.
Change the game—choose whatever
suits you. Pick a color no one expects.
The system is totally rigged.
Players are weak, out of control—
no leadership, total disrespect. Always
too much talk, not enough action.

Losers, the lot of them.

If you’re down in the fourth,
forget the playbook, and the team.
Throw the football to yourself—score
a touchdown. Dance in the end zone.
Do an interview. Huge cojones.

Hail Mary’s are for chumps.
You got this. Believe me,
you got this. Are you ready?
“Me!” on three.

 

Marissa Glover’s poems have appeared in Gyroscope Review, The Opiate, Helen, and Lipstick Party Magazine, among other publications. She teaches in central Florida. Read more at MarissaGlover.wordpress.com.

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What Rough Beast | Poem for January 24, 2018

Justin Shin
Fluid Rhythm

I heard the rain today
felt nature’s radiating violence
the hollow ringing of metal roof panels
the incessant drumming sound
against bones
heard it
felt it

everything was drowning
in the rain
but we were breathing
taking all the oxygen atoms
in the world
during this brief rest
breaths of crisp warmth
where the rhythm of life hummed on
with the drops of the rain
and we were happily marooned
on each of our island homes
and white foam

 

Justin Shin is a sophomore studying at the International School of Manila in the Philippines. He enjoys using literature as a tool to explore the many eccentric and beautiful facets of the world. He writes news articles frequently for the school publication Bamboo Telegraph. He also loves music.

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What Rough Beast | Poem for January 23, 2018

Irene Cooper
Cut

To be funded the vulnerables
must expunge all entitlements
Of course transgender is a no-go
Evidence-based diversity
is not a thing & science-based is
a science fiction fetus never wrote

A fetus never wrote
in support of the vulnerables
The thing about science-based
is not to expunge the entitlements
Evidently diversity
functions to make transgender a no-go

If transgender is a no-go
then what the fetus wrote
in evident diversity
of fundamental vulnerables
is expunged with the entitlement
& not a thing is science-based

If not a thing is science-based
can transgender be a no-go
& who will sponge on the entitlements
a science fiction never wrote
Not the foundlings of the vulnerables
in evident diversity

Despite evidence of diversity
no thing that is science-based
can be funded for the vulnerables
& transgender stays a no-go
in the science fiction that is wrote
to stay the funding of entitlements

Sponging foundling entitlements
is endemic to diversity
Of the fetus what can be wrote
to make a thing so science-based
evidentially erased, a no-go
defunded of transgressions, & of vulnerables

No unwrote erodes entitlement
What is vulnerable in fathomless diversity
is not science-based & transcendence, but no

 

Irene Cooper’s poems have appeared in The Feminist Wire, Poems in the Aftermath, What Rough Beast, and Verseweavers. Cooper lives, writes, and cooks in Oregon, is a fierce advocate for public school, arts curricula, accessible health care, any available toilet, and the popular vote, among other things. She believes that language is imperfect, and so, miraculous.

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