What Rough Beast | Poem for April 26, 2017

Stephen Hollaway

We have been here before: standing on our head
to reorient ourselves, feet unwilling
to accept nothing as their base, our brains
filling with blood, our core exhausted;
we fall on the tumbling mats we tried to make
our ceiling. On them we sit crossways
as if we knew how to meditate,
as if we could breathe deep of unreality
and find fantastic peace, our minds
flipping our vision upside down
so we can function in the gravity
of the situation.
We have lost
elections before and senseless wars,
times of jokers and fools and monstrous liars.
We try to remember the world did not end,
we are still here, there were always
the possible kindnesses, bread broken together,
talk of what was and might still be.
And yet we tire when we see the trend,
hopes frittered away, justice denied.
We sang, once, as if the kingdom had come,
as if we had grown into a new humanity,
but more than once the disappointment came—
not just in leaders but in ourselves the people.
We wrapped our bodies around the rock as it rolled
down the mountain once again, stopping
with our faces low, peering at that peak
where righteousness and mercy surely dwell,
after every tumble less sure than the last.


Stephen Hollaway is a pastor writing from an island thirteen miles out to sea from Rhode Island. This is not far enough away from America.

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