What Rough Beast | Poem for December 5, 2017

Daniel Nester
Manifesto with Cheap Sight Gag from One Crazy Summer

This morning a Swedish couple
sleeps on my living room floor.
Friends of my roommates.

Fourth of July. They’re both
registered communists.
As I wake up and introduce

myself, they tear knobs
from my peasant roll bread
and help themselves to my honey

and my coffee beans.
Their speech is deliberate, birdlike.
They believe everything I say.

I warn them about the strange men who sell
wind-up toys on the subway,
about fragments falling from skyscrapers,

loogies little kids let loose
from observation points. I want to sound
like I’m from Texas.

Walk in the middle of the street, I say.
They stare back with white flaming faces.
Last winter I discovered an Italian bakery

just around the corner. They sell sprinkle cookies
and breakfast rolls for a buck apiece.
That morning I stomped out, hung over,

hungry and angry, and bought two clumps
of sugary sourdough. I couldn’t wait
till I got home and ate one of them

on a stoop. I dug in and slobbered.
When I went back inside, my sneakers
stomped over the Swedes like Godzilla,

and crushing their tourist trinkets, their model-sized
Statue of Liberty and Empire State
crushed to bits. They looked up,

blonde and groggy. Don’t apologize,
they seemed to say. You are an American.


Daniel Nester is the author of Shader: 99 Notes on Car Washes, Making Out in Church, Grief, and Other Unlearnable Subjects (99: The Press, 2015), How to Be Inappropriate (Soft Skull Press, 2009), God Save My Queen: A Tribute (Soft Skull Press, 2003) and God Save My Queen II: The Show Must Go On (Soft Skull Press, 2004). He is the editor of The Incredible Sestina Anthology (Write Bloody Publishing, 2012). Nester teaches writing at The College of Saint Rose in Albany, NY.

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