“Iowa Nice” by Jeanette Beebe

2009 Iowa State Fair, Joe Kristan

Iowa Nice

The sculpture in the center of our city
is named after the man who found home
on an island. A lighthouse in a desert:

a giant umbrella, three dump trucks tall.
But they built it full of holes that let in
the sky. It can’t even block out the sun.

I was born and raised in a state chosen
as first in the nation to vote. On average,
we’re whiter and more rural than the rest

of the US, which might mean it’s not fair
we vote first. We don’t pick the president—
we just narrow the view. Every four years,

it’s the same. At the Fair, they’ll work
a rope line, holding babies and corn dogs
from a podium propped up by hay bales.

They’ll have spray tans and white veneers,
and pose with ‘folks’ who look the part:
cargo shorts, pastel polos, and trucker hats.

Maybe politics is just like that umbrella
sliced with holes, and it’s held by a press
that both reveals and covers. It isn’t the heat.

It’s not even the humidity. What’s dangerous
is the buckle of weather, its shifting weight.
The crack begins underground. We brace

against the glare, the press, like angling
the sun on a beetle through a magnifying
glass. We look up. We crumble politely.


Jeanette Beebe Public Theater New YorkJeanette Beebe is a Best New Poets and Pushcart-nominated poet and journalist. She was named a finalist for the 2019 Iowa Review Award in Poetry and a semifinalist for the 2019 and 2020 92Y Discovery Poetry Contest. Her poems have appeared in Bayou Magazine, New South, Juked, The Chattahoochee Review, After the Pause, Poet Lore, Tinderbox Poetry Journal, Heavy Feather Review, and elsewhere. Her first publications were stage-to-page poems Xeroxed and stapled in chapbooks to support her hometown poetry slam in Des Moines, Iowa—a journey that led her to the Brave New Voices Youth Poetry Slam as a member of Minnesota’s inaugural team. She holds an AB from Princeton, where she was lucky enough to write a poetry thesis advised by Tracy K. Smith.