Banned Together [E.C. Messer]

“Has it ever occurred to you,” he said, “that the whole history of English poetry has been determined by the fact that the English language lacks rhymes?”
—the poet Ampleforth, George Orwell,


It’s an old story, really: the most vulnerable
in society chopped up and fed to entitlement,
lumps in the gravy beaten and smoothed of diversity.
Weird, queer, clever, other, feminine, transgender—
erased from personhood like the fetus
whose autonomy is invented, not evidence-based.

This form the troubadours made to address another anti-science-based
world, storming the gates of their Southern cities—vulnerable
not to attack but to provocative creation, a fetus
wrapped inside a womb of music. Their mastery was entitlement
to wander, to woo indiscriminately, to press transgendered
melodies onto a court system contrived against diversity.

Our own courts set up, supposedly, to preserve diversity
and compose judgments literally evidence-based.
They fail when they hesitate to defend the transgender;
with our elected nobility, they become vulnerable
when they weaponize their entitlement
and threaten to side against me with my fetus—

            do we really need another fetus?
Un-motherhood is a kind of diversity
that I claim as my entitlement,
gratefully able to access science-based
protections against the fertility to which I am vulnerable.
Leave us the self-determination of our bodies. The transgender

were always transgender—
you can’t demand a fetus
you can’t stand, turn around and make it vulnerable
to your demurral of diversity.
That hatred isn’t evidence-based,
it’s just another form of entitlement.

If freedom of language is an entitlement,
then I speak transgender:
this spectrum of identity is science-based,
generated inside each fetus
to reward diversity,
to render the human experiment less vulnerable.

The tendency of evidence-based words to escape is their entitlement—
rigid thought is most vulnerable to breaking. The future is transgender
and non-binary—each new fetus reveals not sameness, but diversity.


E.C. Messer lives in San Francisco and Pismo Beach, CA with her husband and four cats, one of whom has a bionic heart. She would like very much to know you.

Inspiration: Being a relentless form that (despite its Occitan origins) forces a sort of rhyming through repetition onto what Ampleforth so accurately identifies as our language’s resistance to rhyme, the sestina creates a dual protest energy—thematic and sonic—which seemed to me wholly appropriate for this project.

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