What Rough Beast | Poem for November 17, 2017

D. S. Butterworth
the drunk on the bicycle sees his hair as a pentecostal fire

Wind is life, and a moving bicycle manufactures a wind
that violates the principles of hair when the rules

of order operate according to vanity. A nun’s
wimple would work the prow of his face toward

the eternal beachhead that is the world. But he hates
nuns. His eyes, too, squint from blanched lids at the grit

that makes him want to banish the silicates always crumbling
at the seams of infrastructure. It may be shellac

breaking down in his self-generated gust, or treason
of the tire tread funneling up microscopic debris

into the slipstream of irritation before his face.
He composes a law even as the sound of his breath

swims to him through the fog of exertion and the fact
of his labor. Work should be for the plebes. Lord of the machine,

he considers abolishing existence—why the bicycle,
why a street, why legs and pumping heart, at all?

He grimaces as if a vision were to emerge from his bowels.
Where was he going? What was it he needed to tweet,

that joke about Dopey fucking penguins? He laughs and feels
a moment of joy, the intoxication of movement, of telling

the wheels where to go, having them comply. And when
he sees his reflection in the window he knows he has been

touched by the finger of the gods, his hair swelling bigly,
reports of his enemies’ immolation redolent in a tongue of flame.


D.S. Butterworth is the author of Waiting for Rain: A Farmer’s Story (Algonquin Books, 1992), The Clouds of Lucca (Lost Horse Press, 2014), and The Radium Watch Dial Painters (Lost Horse Press, 2011). His work has appeared in Cream City Review, The Wisconsin Review, The Louisville Review, The Portland Review, The Alaska Quarterly Review, The Santa Clara Review, The Midwest Quarterly Review, The Windless Orchard, Plainsongs, Flyway, Amoskeag, The Rockhurst Review, Poet Lore, The Seattle Review, Willow Springs, and The Baltimore Review. He teaches writing and literature at Gonzaga University in Spokane, Washington.

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