Hibernaculum (Lesley Wheeler)

Paper snowflakes, punchbowl, lecherous colleagues. A science-based
sun leaves the party early. Pissed off. Her allegations, evidence-based.

Lest she mount a solstitial harassment case, Mr. Entitlement
deducts words from her mouth. His trepidations, evidence-based.

Meanwhile, a chill propagates. Meanwhile, impeachment’s a fetus
refusing birth and other deportations. Evidence-based

bacteria could violate its airtight NDAs. A virulent diversity
infect it. For that bad baby, no due date’s in evidence. Based

on current models, however, he’s doomed. All syllables will be transgender.
All punctuation will be fluid. Contamination will proceed with haste.

Talk dirty to us, change. Wheel like a season. Winter’s always vulnerable
to sunlight’s disclosure. Words do return. Their germination’s evidence-based.

 

Lesley Wheeler’s books include Radioland and the chapbook Propagation.
http://lesleywheeler.org/
http://barrowstreet.org/press/book/radioland-lesley-wheeler/
https://dulcetshop.myshopify.com/collections/frontpage/products/propagation-leslie-wheeler
Inspiration: When I wrote this broken ghazal I was sick as a dog, virally and existentially. Robert Macfarlane’s word of the day (12/18/17, “hibernaculum”) helped the fragments come together.

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The Lacanian Imaginary Tic (maybe) (Patricia Spears Jones)

There is a diversity of outrages in the daily briefings
On evidence, you can see the cookies crumble, the towers
Tumble, you call your transgender friends and they just
Want to punch the next guy who says something stupid

You know like a fetus is a person or a fetus is not a person
Or a fetus is not a fetus, but an imaginary tic in Lacanian scholarship

You could say stuff like that and you’d be vulnerable to many assaults
To the body, to the spirit, to your use of empirical research, how
Dare you find science  the basis for your conclusions about climate
Or geology genealogy biology- –flow charts abandoned in computer files
Archived
or destroyed—the hard copies stuffed in garages possibly in
Virginia or maybe Maryland.  Are we not entitled to know where

Our ideas are stored.  The ones that speak to invention or justice
Or measure the desertification of the Great Southwest?  The head
Bureaucrat claims no knowledge of censorship—polices change

And really when you think about it, there are so many ways in which
Nouns do so little harm, make little mischief, mask the very bad
Tastes in somebody’s mouth when culling a list of words whose
Meanings double, triple because they are no longer to be used
Example:
The transgender patient is vulnerable to evidence-based procedures
Resulting in a fixed fetal position as a diversity of science-based
Articles list her dis ease with the status quo.  Blah Blah Blah

Oh no, you cannot
Ask for mercy in this land or justice or love really,
you cannot ask for that.

But your outrages can be many, diverse, various, pointing towards
The heartless cock pecking at his twitter feed every other dawn.

 

Patricia Spears Jones is the author of A Lucent Fire: New and Selected Poems and seven other collections. She is the winner of the 2017 Jackson Poetry Prize from Poets and Writers.

Inspiration: The arrogance of the current administration, but more troubling the current culture’s contempt for science, ironically married with contempt for the “other,” i. e. transgender persons, really enraged me. Those seven words combined that arrogance and contempt, plus reminded me of why Whitman asked American poets to make bold work that calls out the awful actors in our midst.

Context for their Budget Requests: A Half Septina for the CDC (Kathrine Varnes)

No one wants to admit he is vulnerable
After those blissful years of entitlement.
At the salad bar, “So much diversity!”—
Before most people had heard the term transgender,
Back when civil rights were a zygote fetus,
And the moon had no flags. What’s wrong with evidence-based?
Would you trust a surgeon who isn’t science-based?

Would you fly a plane that isn’t science-based?
Even Air Force One is vulnerable
To physics, and magic carpets are evidence-based
If you see them. Define entitlement
And liberty. Say where they get the fetus
Imagery for those posters. Diversity
Is more than a buzzword. People are born transgender.

Virginia Woolf’s Orlando was transgender
By divine intervention, not science-based.
Faster than evolution, her diversity
Of man then woman made her vulnerable
Now that she had the goods to carry a fetus.
Every work of fiction is evidence-based,
And sitting down to write it, entitlement.

Entitlement for all! Why should they shun transgender?
Evidence-based funding is good. Science-based
Language like fetus has value. We all feel vulnerable.
What sad, silent-auction price will diversity fetch?

 

Kathrine Varnes is the author of The Paragon and co-editor with Annie Finch of An Exaltation of Forms. She schleps her acting son to NYC for auditions or acting gigs when she is not writing or teaching at FIT.

Inspiration:  Seven words is one too many for a sestina, so I invented the septina and wrote half of one in an effort to reclaim these CDC-quarantined words. What better group to reclaim this ceded rhetorical ground than the unacknowledged legislators of the world?

Raccoon Latrine [Judith Skillman]

The ringed beasts come
as if society were docile,
one by one up the trunk,
and where it splits—

that crotch where the squirrel
made his home—they squat
and do their business.
Markings on fur seem an entitlement

by moon-light: black-beige-gray.
As if a tiger had sold its stripes
for the right to be transgender
and own an opposable thumb.

They seem to sense, science-based,
as are climbers, the outline of the yard,
its jig saw map from paving stones
to dead lilac, ringed

with marsh violets where, beneath the earth,
Persephone clenches her fingers
gone purple with the cold.
My husband rents a cage

as big as a double-wide.
He places a dry sandwich
far back where a door sits
propped open. Faces the trap

toward the house. Then, as if evidence-based,
two days into a week’s rent,
he turns it toward the fence
as if privacy were a commodity

valued by the diversity
of the hungry.
Holly branches sway jauntily
across the wires. When I see

a fetus, its red berries and thorn-sharp leaves,
I remember being vulnerable
to chronic fatigue, sickness and pain.
Two daughters left for good.

Gone as well: the son who would
see these piles of black on bark,
smell the wakeful stink
and know just what to say.

 

Judith Skillman’s most recent book is Kafka’s Shadow, Deerbrook Editions. Her poems have appeared in numerous journals, including Poetry, FIELD, Cimarron Review, Shenandoah, The Iowa Review, and in anthologies, most recently Nasty Women Poets, Lost Horse Press. She has been a writer in residence at the Centrum Foundation, and is the recipient of a 2017 Washington Trust GAP grant. Visit www.judithskillman.com, jkpaintings.com, https://www.facebook.com/judith.skillman

Inspiration: The inspiration for “Raccoon Latrine” was, quite literally, the Big Leaf Maple some raccoons appropriated for their latrine. They seemed to have no concerns regarding human etiquette, manners, or rules.

 

After Dr. William Carlos Williams [Sarah Cedeño]

—Say  it, no [          ] but in [          ]—
nothing but the vulnerable wrists
and putty fetuses
spiraled, queued by passion and fuck-ups—
quiet, a bowl of science-based, a carried
secret—because emotion is unlike a bullet, which
is unlike evidence—based on fingertips. Things—
like humanity—assert presence and mean entitlement,
inconvenient like breath. But the bullet.
And because the voice.
Mouths are only scars with teeth meant to
—say it: transgender, contraception, diversity—
unspool the words because—and so— they
never run out.

 

Sarah Cedeño writes on good days and worries every day.
Inspiration: I was thinking about empathy and William Carlos Williams while I was preparing a discussion about abstract vs. concrete for my creative writing students.

 

Bill Nye: An Ode [Michael Anft]

The defender of
the science-based,
the evidence-based,
that wrinkled prune
of a secular saint,
reminds us that
the world revolves
around a diversity
of being.
Even so,
we are all stardust,
he knows,
from the
just-hatched fetus to
the re-birthed transgender woman,
one no more or less
graced with
entitlement
than any other.

 

Michael Anft is a writer and journalist whose work appears in AARP The MagazineThe Chronicle of Higher EducationKaiser Health News, and several other publications.
Inspiration: I chose science educator Bill Nye as the subject of my poem after thinking of who could best speak against the CDC word censure. I hope that my words serve as a winning proxy.

 

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: https://www.eleanorkedney.com/

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.