Kim Roberts

Two Poems

20th Anniversary Reflections

Kim Roberts founded Beltway Poetry Quarterly in January 2000. At the end of 2019, after twenty years as editor, she will retire from the journal.

Roberts writes, “Editing Beltway Poetry Quarterly has taught me so much. It clarified what is most important to me about craft, such as the importance of strong line breaks in free verse, and the need for internal consistency within the little world of each poem—and it solidified my sense that how a poem speaks (its song elements) is just as important as what it speaks about (the content). Editing has also provided me with a terrific introduction to so many of the region’s amazing poets—and those human connections have enriched my life immeasurably. I’m so grateful for the experience.”


Two Poems

Some of the Lies

We are ugly, our noses
are oversized hooks. We are pushy,
loud and always interrupting.

Our ugliness will infect you.
We are cheap, always
looking for ways to cheat you

of your money, your precious money.
We control people in secret.
That we will never fit in, never,

no matter how long we stay here,
how many generations. Sometimes
our ugliness can be hidden—

we are that tricky, changing
our looks, our names, fooling you
into trust while we reach

into your wallet, marry
into your family, pass on
our ugly hooks. We hook you.

Sometimes even we believe the lies.
Sometimes shame is the ugliness.
But we can turn that against you too:

because sometimes the ugliness
can be sold, we are that tricky, that oily,
and you are so easily fooled.


The Sword of Damocles hovers
over the sliced pastrami,
the lox glistens with nervous sweat,

the dill trembles and hides among the pickles
and trepidation makes the bagels
curl inward.

I am the Cassandra of the Delicatessen
and you will not heed my warning.
I come from a long line of heroes:

Isaac the Great, who could eat
an entire brisket at one sitting;
Seymour the Accursed, whose stories

had no beginning and no end;
Herschel the Terrible, who took
all comers at mah-jongg;

Stanley the Proud, renowned
for his hand-eye coordination;
the Long Arm of Aaron;

and my rumpled uncle Saul,
Liberator of Wind—warriors each
in their own way.

The chopped liver exudes an ill-starred augury,
pocked with portents of diced boiled egg,
which only a trained haruspex such as I can read.

I am as prescient as a glass display case,
as weatherwise as a prune sibyl
but will you listen? Will you learn?



Kim Roberts is the editor of the anthology By Broad Potomac’s Shore: Great Poems from the Early Days of our Nation’s Capital (University of Virginia Press, 2020), selected by the East Coast Centers for the Book for the 2021 Route 1 Reads program as the book that “best illuminates important aspects” of the culture of Washington, DC. She is the author of A Literary Guide to Washington, DC: Walking in the Footsteps of American Writers from Francis Scott Key to Zora Neale Hurston (University of Virginia Press, 2018), and five books of poems, most recently The Scientific Method (WordTech Editions, 2017).