What Rough Beast | Poem for December 2, 2017

Gregory Luce
An Unquiet Life

Poets who write mostly about love, roses, and moonlight, sunsets and snow must lead a very quiet life.
—Langston Hughes

I want to get back to writing about thunderstorms
and the sky painted with Monet clouds,
or that color the sky turns
right after the rain stops, or the broken
melodies of catbirds erupting
from deep within bushes,
or that electrified feeling I get
riding the Metro with Dolphy or Mingus
pulsating in my ears, or the way
lights reflected on the river
remind me of my lover’s face
after we make love.

But these days when I imagine clouds,
they’re always dark (and Jesus it feels like
it’s been raining all summer). Birdsong
still makes me run to the window or stop my bike,
but the joy flies away as fast as the birds themselves
and soon I’m back to brooding and scowling,
so entranced by the scroll of outrages
unrolling on my screen I forget to look up.
My headphones can’t drown out the angry chatter
rattling inside my head..

And everywhere I see handmade signs and torches,
people walking around with clenched fists
muttering through clenched teeth. Each day’s headlines
are more bizarre than the day before, and lately
fucking Twitter rants contain more poetry
than I can dredge up out of my battered,
fatigued imagination.

So I write: Try to keep it real, stay awake
even when my eyes feel like they’ve had
thumbs pressed into them. Write when
my head pounds, about to burst
like an overripe fruit, when anxiety
shoots its shocks, when the pen feels
like a baseball bat in my quivering
fingers. Rain, so no bike ride?
Write motherfucker! (Then maybe
go for a ride anyway.)


Gregory Luce is the author of Signs of Small Grace (Pudding House Publications, 2010), Drinking Weather (Finishing Line Press, 2011), Memory and Desire (Sweatshoppe Publications, 2013), and Tile (Finishing Line Press, 2016). In addition to numerous journals, his poems have appeared in the anthologies Living in Storms (Eastern Washington University Press, 2008), Bigger Than They Appear (Accents Publishing, 2011), Unrequited: An Anthology of Love Poems about Inanimate Objects (CreateSpace, 2016) and Candlesticks and Daggers: An Anthology of Mixed-Genre Mysteries (CreateSpace, 2016). Recipient of the 2014 Larry Neal Award winner for adult poetry, awarded by the DC Commission on the Arts and Humanities, Luce is retired from National Geographic, works as a creative writing instructor for Writopia Lab, and lives in Arlington, Virginia.

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