Our republic is a patient in a ward
congested with both vulnerable and entitled,
all grappling with the range of new-to-us non-options—
how illness closes door after door,
be you a fetus or one foot in the grave
in spite of science- and evidence-based keys
providing so many choices—in theory. The answer keys
at the backs of books, we think they’ll help us forward,
but live long enough and you’ll learn that some grave
afflictions defy both evidence and entitlement.
Diversity fosters answers, and sometimes slides a door
from “closed” to ajar, but sometimes all the options
add up to more questions, and bills, depleting options
and piggy banks. What’s a Nadal or a Madison Keys
or Renée Richards or—cradle to grave,
think of whom we love to watch and reward
with clicks and cards and feeling entitled
to answers for our adoration, to keys
to their kingdoms—will only the grave
ease this craving, this fantasy of options
unfettered by rules, unshaded by entitlement—
to feel we earned the car and weren’t just handed the keys?
More fun to be the godmother than the orphaned ward
having to hope for rescue—the words to open the door
closed to un-special mortals. I now see how doors
in truth can be sieves and veils. Envelopes, graves—
nothing is sealed forever, though as we lurch forward
into new ripples of righteousness, splintered options
still steel enough to prick some souls, old keys
do sometimes turn new locks. And while entitlement
clogs up hinges and gears, and slaps “entitlement”
onto the needs of others, keep watching the door.
Bisexual, transgender, nunya—the keys
to enactable plans begin with grave
yet generous assessments—clear-eyed reviews of options
no matter who claims to be in charge of the ward.
We know that we are vulnerable: entitlement swamps the ward,
surging over gates and dams. Neither walls nor doors are options.
The future will dog us to our graves, no matter how fancy our keys.
Peg Duthie is a native Southerner who works as a museum editor in Tennessee. She’s also a Union of Concerned Scientists member and the author of Measured Extravagance (which features an Erlenmeyer flask on its cover). There’s more about her at nashpanache.com and zirconium.dreamwidth.org.
Inspiration: It rarely takes much prompting to propel me into sestina-building, so when Olivia Waite retweeted Don Share’s signal boost of the CPP’s call for submissions—on a weekend when other colleagues and friends went ham with, on, and about the same seven words, from anagrams to songs to tee-shirts—how was I to resist?