Scientists claim there’s an explanation for everything [Joanna Lee]

these words are banned from poems
and budgets and all legal documents except
essays on graduate-level metaphysics, for fear
they will transgender your language, turn
the vulnerable butterflies of you
into slow, solid meat.

while you aren’t watching, whole continents ghost
down from someone else’s idea
of heaven; when you look up
for salvation, it will have become
just another melting fetal icecap, being born
into a sea of dry cocoons.

it happens on a tectonic scale; you won’t see
the salt levels rise. they’ll weave
lullabyes from the skins
of polar bears, leaving out
the pink fists and god dreams
of diversity, so you’ll be left

with so much more to forget. so much
of entitlement, of science-
and evidence-based metamorphosis:
take your weak, your poor, your different
and shove them back
in some other womb.


Never having formally studied English or creative writing past high school, Joanna Lee instead focused on the sciences, earning her MD from the Medical College of Virginia in 2007 and a further Master’s Degree in Applied Science (neuroscience) from the College of William and Mary in 2010. Her writing life focuses particularly on the overlap of creativity and healing, and her first chapbook, Dissections, was released in 2017 from Finishing Line Press.

Inspiration: As a doctor-scientist by training and a poet by vocation, I felt this word ban as a gut punch on every level, threatening not only our health but the health of our freedoms.



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