What Rough Beast | Poem for September 13, 2017

Andrew K. Peterson
Poem to be Read Aloud on the Corner of Massachusetts Avenue and Newbury Street on International Worker’s Day

I was there
with the strobers, for
the thieves. I could read
their heavy arrivals and
smile anyway; why not?
I’m only plodding along
tagging bottomless cotton
blends til this shift ends.
Too tired to give a shit.
One morning—too early
for stars—I passed k.d. lang
eyes locked in her look
that said don’t. So I didn’t.

Barefoot hippies took the square the day Jerry Garcia died, I was there
for the drum circles bleating crosstown tie-dyed poly-rhythms, waiting
on Mister-Mountain-Dew-Baggy-Pants to replace me on the late shift;

I was there on time.
When the old lady farts
for the morning meetings
we pretend not to hear.
I was there to proof the
memo the day she died.

I was there for the changing rooms’ loose needles thousand-dollar
wallets for the kindness of homeless man asking for King James mortar-
boards textbook returns crossed bridges to soft Pluto, to empty out

karma from the stolen tarot decks.
I was there when the lady
touched my forehead for the pulse
of an aura as another puked Scope
and both the colors changed.

I was there when the Patriots lost to the Giants.
I was there when the Patriots lost to the Giants.
I was there to direct so many woke dreamers

to the mattresses. Why was I there?
For the feel of fitting in after all that time
can I help? Can I help? Hi, can I—
deny myself the question

step out from behind the register, the back of my hand
a makeshift blind against afternoon slants’ winter sunset:
commerce—an open mouth emptying a ringing song
I was there on corners for the work that wants
the wheel that wants the drum to shake it all loose from

—for Michele Lubowsky


Andrew K. Peterson is the author of The Big Game Is Every Night (Locofo Chaps, 2017), Anonymous Bouquet (Spuyten Duyvil, 2015), and bonjour meriwether and the rabid maps (Fact-Simile, 2011). His work appears in Emergency Index 2012 (Ugly Duckling Presse) and has been featured in museum exhibits and performance projects. He edits the online literary journal summer stock and lives in Boston.

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