What Rough Beast | Poem for November 29, 2017

Naomi Thiers

When my kid and I travel, we travel lean–
Bolt Bus, fast food, backpacks stuffed
with apples and chocolate bars–
and we trail a mild buzz: on the road again,
bouncing on Motel 6 beds.
But the day we saw her—
oh, we knew more.

At a Jerry’s Subs on the edge
of Manhattan, marking time
till the next bus, ranch sauce dripping
off subs as we leaned
on piled backpacks,

She sat apart
in a designer raincoat, black slacks,
her blond hair salon-waved
but pulled back in a cheap band.
Fortyish, facing hard toward the door:
chipped French manicure (I sensed
my daughter’s quiet noticing), dirt stains
and bitten skin around her cuticles.

Her spine, stiff as her tower
of bags–two smart duffles
and a Filene’s tote—said
Let Me Be.

She was tacking toward invisible, then
with swift, quiet movement, she rose,
walked to the corner
column of baskets,
snatched a Sun Chips
and whirled back to her perch,
one crossed leg

Her eyes never lifted.

She stashed the food deep
in her tote. I could see odd things
at its top (blankets, file folders),
but not her face, not her
hammering heart.

And—fast as her hand stole—
my daughter’s frightened
eyes shot to mine
across a full table.


“Feral” originally appeared in the Potomac Review.


Naomi Thiers  is the author of Only The Raw Hands Are Heaven (Washington Writers Pub House, 1992),  In Yolo County (Finishing Line Press, 2013), and She Was a Cathedral (Finishing Line Press, 2015). Her work has appeared in Virginia Quarterly Review, Poet Lore, Colorado Review, Pacific Review, Potomac Review, Grist, and Sojourners, among other publications and anthologies. Originally from California, she lives in Washington, DC, and is an editor at Educational Leadership magazine.

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