Evidence-Based Sestina [Kelly Lenox]

Every breath makes us vulnerable
to what rides in on the current—a diversity
of specks, poisons, vital gases. Science-based
plans to limit mercury fumes, protect a fetus
from lead in drinking water, stop suicide of transgender
schoolchildren—these are no entitlements.

Or, wait—this nation’s founders claimed entitlement
to life, liberty, pursuit of happiness. The vulnerable
among us inherited these rights. Though no transgender
man was apparently among them, no diversity
of skin color, income, or ability to nurture a fetus,
their claims were solid, as if science-based.

Limitations of eighteenth century science-based
knowledge didn’t slow them down. Entitlement
by birth to property and power was proper, a fetus
of England’s queen notwithstanding. Vulnerable
to the whims of distant nobility, colonists aired a diversity
of grievances. Were as rebuffed as a transgender

woman at an evangelical crusade. And yet a transgender
woman told me born-again rang true after her science-based
rebirth. She even found a church where diversity
was tolerated by all, welcomed by most. Entitlement
to a spiritual home asserted. The vulnerable
were not shut out. Still, those who cannot host a fetus

make rules for others whose fetuses
feed them danger. Some even think transgender
is a choice. Way back, before they became invulnerable,
were they ever fascinated by science? Based
on what and whom they promote, their entitlement
billows like dust on a gravel drive, beyond the diverse city.

Let us hold a mirror to those opposing diversity.
Show them the shapes of their teeth. For a fetus
to override a woman’s pursuit of life is the same entitlement
scorned by those who scorn transgender
persons, who do not reckon science-based
decisions valid. Ignorance makes them vulnerable.

They devalue diversity. Turn from transgender
neighbors. Harm the fetus by thwarting science-based
protections. Even with entitlements, they are vulnerable.


Kelly Lenox’s debut collection, The Brightest Rock, was published in 2017. Inspiration for the sestina came in a fashion similar to what led her to found the Erase-Transform Poetry Project—the urge to turn political speech, or not-speech in this case, into poetry. She works for a cousin of CDC (same grandpa) and hopes they don’t come for her.



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