What Rough Beast | Poem for January 23, 2017

Judith Terzi
The Punchman Takes Us Back

to commedia dell’arte. Back to makeshift
booths clothed in Neapolitan stripes.

Imagine the Punchman as he maneuvers
the strings of marionettes, one in his

very own image: Pulcinella. He is jester,
he is Lord of Trickery, he is Master

of Manipulation. He carries batons to knock off
nemeses: the foreigner, the diplomat,

the donkey, the ghost of discretion. And often
the devil & the dinosaur. “That’s

the way we do it,” squawks the Punchman.
Addio! È cosí che si fa, brutto maiale!

(People say he speaks through a kazoo which
limits his vowel capacity. And linguists

swear he practices glossolalia, which is hardly
equal to speaking in tongues.)

Audiences anticipate the wrath, the staccato,
the brio, they revel in the braggadocio.

They are “pleased as Punch” as the Punchman
dangles Pulcinella, jitters & jangles

& jumbos his strings in a digital delirium
across a slapstick stage. As he

choreographs a tarantella like no one has
ever dared to dance before.


Judith Terzi’s is the author of If You Spot Your Brother Floating By (Kattywompus Press, 2015). Her poetry has appeared in journals such as Atlanta Review (International Publication Prize, 2015), Caesura, Columbia Journal, Raintown Review, Spillway, and in anthologies such as Malala: Poems for Malala Yousafzai (FutureCycle); Myrrh, Mothwing, Smoke: Erotic Poems (Tupelo); and Wide Awake: The Poets of Los Angeles and Beyond (Pacific Coast Poetry Series). Her poetry has been nominated for Best of the Net and Web.

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