The Rough Beast Goes to Outer Space

Alexandra Teague

“Why don’t we just put everybody in a space outfit or something like that? No. Seriously, I mean–” –Stephen Moore, Trump Economic Task Force Advisor, April 2020

and outer space looks a lot like America from inside the helmet, the glass curving

the sky back inward like “The Star Spangled Banner” playing backwards from cassettes in the Satanic Panics

when people feared daycares-fathers-teachers- coaches-someone blood-ritualing their children.

That collective hysteria like a constellation with no real lines connecting star to star

to oh-say-can-you, yet people kept drawing them, pointing at the sky–

because something has to be to blame for this earth’s devily worms and split-open Barbie heads

and kids with their knees all bloodied from falling or having to kiss the dark lord’s private parts:

sanctum sanctorum of the mythic fears that say trust no one, not scientists, not doctors, not whoever

says they care — any warning fact boomeranging back like the waning moon of reason

thrown so hard it makes the Rough Beast dizzy. Though he’s breathing through a kind of ventilator

built right into his space outfit, its oxygen pack, thirteen layers, and hard upper torso like a puffed-out exoskeleton or a blowfish

with pads instead of spines. And the $12 million price tag still dangling like Minnie Pearl’s hat in Hee-Haw,

cornpone humor and capitalism included in all these kinds of suits they’re building now.

Which, the economist says, we all may need to buy to have a functioning economy, to plug America back

to neon OPEN signs — its own private zero gravity, which is not what this feels like:

these envelopes in pressurized envelopes the Beast can hardly hear inside, though someone’s singing

that our flag was still there, pointing toward the moon– because something has to be the answer

to an Earth so full of bodies airports are doubling as morgues now and doctors are trussed up

in trash bags as shoppers wave big padded hands like that video where Armstrong and Aldrin try to flatten

the flag that keeps whipping back away like a trick birthday candle, as if America’s wish

might not come true after all. Or might keep coming true like the fairytale where the weaver asks

for two heads and four hands to weave faster, but all his speed doesn’t save him from the village

that fears now he’s a demon, which the Rough Beast understands. He’s listened to the stock market

played forward and the speeches declaring we’re winning, and sometimes the stars look all bendable

rushing at his head, and it’s lonely in this suit, and each day the air seems thinner.

Alexandra Teague is the author of three poetry collections — Or We’ll Call Desire (Persea 2019), The Wise and Foolish Builders, and Mortal Geography — and the novel The Principles Behind Flotation, and co-editor of Bullets into Bells: Poets & Citizens Respond to Gun Violence. She is a professor at University of Idaho and an editor for Broadsided Press.