Poem with Its Mouth in a Sling (Elaine Sexton)

Scratch out
evidence, scratch out
science, eliminate diversity, trans-
or otherwise, even the word


with its hair-trigger
antecedents, history
of bomb threats, and bigots
with pitchforks

win. Everyone
suffers. Language requires
entitlement, privilege,
and cannot be

silenced. Words
are vulnerable,
demand a voice,
and their voice is choice.


Elaine Sexton is a poet, critic, and educator. Her third collection of poetry is Prospect/Refuge (Sheep Meadow, 2015).

Inspiration: This poem is a sketch, an attempt to express how crippling this Orwellian gesture is, in trying to legislate language, the basic vocabulary of our time.


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