What Rough Beast | Poem for December 3, 2017

Ed Madden
Joyce says the Mexicans

Joyce says the Mexicans carry wrenches
as they walk down the road, and they’ll kill
the dogs if they run at them, even when
they’re being friendly—the dogs, that is, not
the Mexicans. The peach trees across the road
are tipped pink in the evening sun. Bert says
the Mexicans are probably seasonal labor
in the orchards. Betty is dead, and Joyce
wants something to remember her, so when
she comes by to feed the dogs left behind,
she comes in to peruse the rooms we’re
setting up for the estate sale, lets us know
the daughters promised her the hall tree,
the freezer, the desk, one of the computers,
and a book—doesn’t matter which one, just
a good one, you pick it. Betty also kept
rabbits, cats, potbellied pigs, she had
a soft heart for critters. Cleaning out
one room, we found a stack of notebooks
filled with addresses of various politicians,
reminders to write Fox News about this
or that guest who needed never be brought
back, a few scrawls about state politics—
Haley appointed Scott (BLACK) to the seat,
but at least it wasn’t that crook McMaster
and various angry slogans about Obama,
as if Betty was trying them out in the notebook
for her letters later, or maybe her friends,
over Sunday buffet at the local restaurant,
Sunday the one day that the little Mexican
restaurant across the street is closed. It has to be
complicated here, the old Methodist church
bells pealing out at evening, the junk shops
that line the single block of Main Street
closing for the day, and the Mexicans
walking down the roads, headed back
to the apartments after a long day
in the orchards, wrenches in hand for all
those friendly white American dogs.


Ed Madden is the author of four books of poetry, most recently Ark (Sibling Rivalry Press, 2016), a memoir in verse about caring for his father in his last months of living with cancer. His chapbook, So they can sing, won the 2016 Robin Becker Poetry Prize and is out this fall from Seven Kitchens Press.

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