Seven Words [Eleanor Kedney]

As a child, I made up words, their syllables
prolonged, my voice a lilt. A woo ner
was my refrain, while adults half-smiled
and shooed me away.

As a teenager, I learned to annunciate,
what vowels crooned and which ones whistled,
making a dog cock its head, ironing out
the wrinkles in my syntax.

I learned seven forbidden words as an adult,
repeating them as if a new language,
studied their etymology, put them in a “stanza,”
as in Italian, meaning giving them a “room”:
diversity, fetus, transgender, vulnerable,
entitlement, science-based, evidence-based.

President Trump’s seven deadly sins—
envy, gluttony, lust, greed, pride, anger, sloth—
turning minds counterclockwise, while Herodotus
and Callimachus extolled seven wonders.

Colossus of Rhodes
Great Pyramid of Giza
Hanging Gardens of Babylon
Lighthouse at Alexandria
Mausoleum at Halicarnassus
Statue of Zeus at Olympia
Temple of Artemis at Ephesus

The Great Pyramid of Giza still exists;
their writing has not survived.

I write “fetus,” “fetus,” “fetus” one hundred times
on a chalkboard, recite it, sometimes slurring the s’s,
my mouth full of spit, so it sounds more like “feed us,”
meaning “to give food,”  a necessity, a must-have, to stay alive.

Eleanor Kedney is the author of the chapbook The Offering (Liquid Light Press, 2016). Her poems have been published in a number of U.S. and international journals and anthologies, including Connecticut River Review, Many Mountains Moving, Miramar Poetry Journal, and Sliver of Stone. She is the founder of the Tucson branch of the New York-based Writers Studio, and served as the director and the advanced class teacher. Learn more at:

Inspiration: When I read that particular words were being censored, whether it was a decision within the CDC not to offend members of Congress overseeing appropriations, or a directive from this current administration, I was outraged. I felt compelled to write a poem that celebrates the seven forbidden words to speak out in support of the unhindered freedom to use all of our language.

One thought on “Seven Words [Eleanor Kedney]

  1. One can only imagine the mental gymnastics going through a government official’s mind when they try to limit free speech within their little taxpayer-funded duchies. Just like the sun and the moon, scientific realities exist whether you admit they do or not. In this poem the absurdity and disappointment we all feel when encountering such elaborate misdirection is seen—we are forced to examine an earlier time, when we were first encountering speech, when we all felt the magic at saying something out loud, and birthing a word into existence. Today that magic morphs into the desperation felt in the present day, saying forbidden words out loud so they can survive, just to keep their reality alive.

    Liked by 1 person

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