Dis-/Ease Control [Central]** [Lynne DeSilva-Johnson]

*dhē(i)- / dhayati, dhayah, thele, felare, femina, fecundus, daddjan

we are fetal, evidence of our vulnerable skins still
awaiting nourishment, awaiting permission to find ourselves here
to title ourselves alive

suckle, abundant, offspring, lamb

*terə- / turah, teirein, tornus, tiro, tirah, purh

En-title, I cross my self across my Self, trans-
gender, trans species, I give birth,  I beget my
Self, across, a diversity of bloodied letters

wounded, threshhold, to rub, rub away

*genə- / janati, janah, jatah, janman, gnasi, gentis, gecynd

to turn in different directions,
to bend
to turn aside

to raise, to lift, to hold suspended

these vowels       from- / their multiworld wombs
from- / the millioned mouths that said wheel, befall, to be changed

*wer- / aerein, svarr, schwer, vartate, rhatane, versus, weorthan, wyrd

Fecund filioque fellatio
I baste my wounds in eloquence, based in evidence,
the roots of my limb trees in gignesthai, in genius.
who I am but science-based, who I am but borne and born and bearer

Scilicet, sciolist, scission, scism, shiver, shyster, squire

*skei- / chindhi, a-sista-, skhizein, c’tim, chwydu

a stepping, I, permission. en-Titled. A fetus, I, the
secure ground from which operations proceed, the
destination of a runner

the bottom of anything

perceptible sight, a knowing
a Methodical Thing

tell me again how your hands came to hold
the title to story
how you knighted yourself use of my tongue

 

Lynne DeSilva-Johnson (they/them) is a nonbinary queer interdisciplinary creator, cultural scholar, and educator. They are founder of The Operating System, a radical open source arts organization and small press. After 10+ years teaching at CCNY, Lynne is now serving as a visiting assistant professor at Pratt Institute. Recent publication credits include Wave Composition, The Conversant, Gorgon Poetics, POSTblank, Vintage Magazine, Live Mag, Coldfront, the Brooklyn Poets Anthology, Resist Much/Obey Little: Poems for The Resistance, and “In Memory of Feasible Grace,” part of the Panthalassa Pamphlet series, among others. Their performances and work have appeared widely, including recent features at Artists Space, Bowery Arts and Science, The NYC Poetry Festival, Carmine Street Metrics, Eyebeam, LaMaMa, Triangle Quarterly, Undercurrent Projects, Mellow Pages, The New York Public Library, Launchpad BK, Dixon Place, Poets Settlement, and many more. They are always still beginning.

Inspiration: The fascist impulse to control language usage is ultimately one of our most constant reminders of the power of language (things not powerful don’t bear concern enough to control). These words are part of the ever-shifting landscape of evolving sounds we employ to describe the wonder and confusion of our human lives–and to mark these lives for ourselves, each other, and (we hope) our future generations, via story in all its forms. For this work I wanted to explore not only these words but also their origins–looking for their overlaps across cultures and traditions, how they’ve woven in and out of each other, and already how this short list represents a galaxy of human history.

I wanted to speak to our enduring search for self, and indeed our entitlement to that search, and its journey through and across languages, landing us here, where someone tasked with our protection instead portends to tie us into knots. This is a poem of refusal and of grappling, that knows that we and these words are an interchangeable body, belonging to no one if not to all of us.

 

 

 

 

 

 

To Those Who May Be Listening [Alicia Hoffman]

Yesterday, on NPR, a man from the Pentagon’s Advanced
Aerospace Threat Identification program was interviewed
about alien spacecrafts, the vulnerable 5-35 pilots catching
glimpses of unidentified flying objects and, risking ridicule,
reporting them. The man, welcome to the entitlement
of his own opinions, thank you, insisted we are not alone.
And now, on another feed, the diversity of our galaxies
reveal an additional interstellar object, elongated in shape
and in no way human science-based. Of course, we fail
to find evidence-based conclusions. The things move
too damn fast. We can only look at the spreadsheet of stars
in our own small slice of sky and wonder: if extraterrestrial
vessels made contact would they only laugh at our fetus-
like brains, so small we cannot, even now, grasp the heady
concepts of transgender restrooms, institutional racism,
equal pay? What would they say of our politics, our president,
the way we hand entertainers who throw balls astronomical
amounts of money while our educators slave away for a
small check they shell out immediately for a mortgage?
Please, I beg of you, if you can hear us, we need you.
We need you to tell us it will be okay, that we are perhaps
only in the infancy of our existence, and that maybe, just
maybe, if we can find the right words, and use them
in the right way, our language could hold us up, make us
brave enough to ask for help, please, before it’s too late.

 

Alicia Hoffman lives, writes, and teaches in Rochester, New York. Author of Railroad Phoenix, (Kelsay Books, 2017), her poems have appeared in a variety of journals, including Penn Review, SOFTBLOW, Redactions, A-Minor Magazine, and elsewhere. Find out more at: aliciamariehoffman.com.

Inspiration: Soon after reading about the list of words banned from CDC documents, I listened to an interview on NPR with the head of the Pentagon’s Advanced Aviation Threat Identification Program where he admitted the existence of UFOs. So, here we are, engaged in the pitiful spectacle of censorship, when we could be spending valuable time exploring our relationship to the wider universe and perhaps communicating with who, or what, is out there.

Whispers Fill What Space Is Left [Cate McGowan]

I sneak behind the mob shrilling their silver whistles, screaming through bullhorns, waving posters. The signs scream, BABY KILLER! …Your fetus doesn’t have a choice!  I climb two flights of stairs to an unmarked office, and nausea overtakes me as I enter. I gulp back the bile.

The squat receptionist frowns, missiles a glance at my mid-section as she searches behind me for a companion, a ghost. “You’ll need a ride home.” I lie: “My boyfriend’s parking down the street.” Her eyes lift to heaven. She knows. She peers through the glass, “That’s $400. Cash. And you’ll need a cab after.” She taps her long black fingernail on the clipboard. “Go on, sign-in.” I skim the list of fourteen women ahead of me. All Marys. A most common name.

I find a seat in the middle row. One woman sniffles, leans into her boyfriend’s shoulder. Another squeezes her visibly transgender mate’s tiny hand; both wear security guard uniforms. Everyone avoids eye contact. We ignore the vulnerable window view of mid-day traffic outside the dusty blinds. Though, we do hear the world out there, how the horns bawl, how the busses gurgle by in a crawl.

In the hushed room, we gaze at a viridian wall and its illustrated chart of large saltwater fish. I wonder if some of the sea creatures are sperm whales (an ironic joke I can’t tell here). That evidence-based world fades distant in this cramped room of women whose babies will never have names in our world of mistakes and terrors.

While we sweat it out in the cramped waiting room, the door to the inner office hisses open every seven minutes, and a prickly nurse calls names. I watch each Mary, Mary, and Mary rise. When the door puffs shut, an arrow of scent shoots by redolent of menace and rubbing alcohol.

A man sits next to me and sighs, his wedding band unscratched shine, and he wears his easy air of entitlement— he’s just a guest here. He stares at the floor, re-ties his shoe laces, tugs at his pockets, flips through an old copy of Scientific American with its headline, “Future Jobs Depend on a Science-Based Economy.” There is no future.

The crowd here shifts, swells. There are no seats now. Whispers fill what space is left. People stand, hover, push against a privacy screen papered with paisley, its out-of-date pattern’s diversity dizzying. I swallow hard again. The door swings open. “Mary M.?” This time it’s my turn. I stand, relinquish my chair, try to smile when the attendant apologizes for the long wait.

 

Cate McGowan is the author of the story collection, True Places Never Are (Moon City Press, 2015), which won the Moon City Press Short Fiction Award. McGowan’s work appears in literary outlets such as W. W. Norton’s Flash Fiction InternationalGlimmer TrainCrab Orchard Review, Shenandoah(b)oink, and Vestal Review. Find her at www.catemcgowan.com

Inspiration: The recent assault on healthcare by the Trump administration is not new; this piece came out of my experiences escorting women into clinics during the early 1990s when Operation Rescue employed guerilla tactics to block abortions.

 

 

Poor Tiffany Trump, Left Out of All the Photos Like “Evidence-Based,” is Left Out of This Sestina [Jennifer Martelli]

Dear Don Jr.: In the green light of night-vision goggles, I saw a vulnerable
elephant brought down by seven pure & metallic lionesses. Their diverse
uteri—some in estrus, heat glowing & thick & fertile. Pregnant lion with her fetus
curled & hairless, really no more than a newt, a red eft, transgender—
that lioness suffocated the pachyderm, bit his trunk shut. The Nat Geo scientists
based this on her thicker pelt, her place of honor in the hunt, her kill-entitlement.

Dear Eric: Deep in the Czechoslovakian heart, the stones—like a toothy entitled
smile—cause the trees to grow curved as broken cornets or flutes, the roots vulnerable
to the warped mind of the terrain, & the wind, & the earth’s curve. The science
of the moon & the sun, too, twist the trunks until they bend. The only diversity:
the degree of the curve, how low the trees drag their bellies. Trunks bent the way a fetus
bends, to accommodate the mother, the canal, that mouth torn pink & transformed.

Dear Ivanka: You confuse me. Your breasts are amazing, your shoulders though, trans-
religious & broad, & your porcelain husband—do you break him? You are entitled,
Cowgirl, to ride that bronco but he cries, don’t hurt me! (He calls you Mommy).  Feed us,
Mommy, feed my girly-girl heart, feed my slumlord mouth, feed the vulture
your black milk of morning
. All golden hair Margareta. Your father wasn’t diverse—
wife & wife & wife & daughter wife & beauty queen & you, fate-based by science.

Dear Tiffany: 3’s equal an imbalance, an odd ball, an extra. Science
warns us, too. That dangling chromosome. That vestigial sac. Transgender
organs & clothes. Something has to go. Be lopped off. Pick a side. Divest
your riches from the ivied universities. In your father’s world, you are un-titled,
you do not exist. Poof! The sky is as blue as your heavy eyelids. Invulnerable
symmetry, like God, all golden. Like you. But beautiful. Not so freakish.

Dear Barron: When you were a golden apostrophe, an owned billionaire fetus
owning a golden horse, a golden lion, a golden truck, a golden sun science
says can burn the world to ash, your mother protected you, most vulnerable
trump-card in the cursed Tarot deck. Why won’t you smile an amber frown trans-
posed into a grimace? Your smile the mark of possession, your name the title
of peerage: Barron Trump. Barron, all yours, the rutting, the ash, the sadness divers.

Dear Children of the United States: Apologies, you will have to go long, dive
river-deep into America, because it’s your blood-flow, your scoliactic fetal
spinal column. None of this is your fault. Here is your golden belt, your title
written on papyrus, burnt edged & imported. The pseudo-science
pneumococcals flattened the globe: anti-vaxxed face, blank un-pitiless, trans-
Siberian-cold dares you to look it in its eye, you, least venerable, most vulnerable.

Dear Don Jr., say diversity & we (you) die. Dear Eric, say entitlement, & we
(you) end. Dearest Ivanka, say vulnerable. Tiffany, transgender, & so vamoose &
tod. Barron, say science-based & behold: children say fetus & flower.

 

Jennifer Martelli’s debut poetry collection, The Uncanny Valley, was published in 2016 by Big Table Publishing Company. She is also the author of After Bird from Grey Book Press. Her work has appeared in Thrush, [Pank], Glass Poetry Journal, Cleaver, The Heavy Feather Review, and Tinderbox Poetry Journal. Jennifer Martelli has been nominated for Pushcart and Best of the Net Prizes and is the recipient of the Massachusetts Cultural Council Grant in Poetry. She is a book reviewer for Up the Staircase Quarterly as well as the co-curator for The Mom Egg VOX Folio.

Inspiration: Although I rarely write in form, I love the obsession of the sestina. I treated each stanza as a separate poem, a letter to the Trump kids. This allowed me to focus, in a simpler way, on what I saw as their unique characteristics!

 

 

Disinformation [Lori Brack]

You said you loved us, and we thought you meant
curled fetus love, snuggled warm blood love, cozy
heart-pumping love of all that’s vulnerable:
nuclear winter to Orlando’s frozen Thames love,
his – no, her – transgender glittering mirror-self’s
unfettered love for the bric-a-brac of democracy—
discourse, diversity, equality.
What’s it to you, who doomed us to the cold
like spies skulking around with our evidence-based tools
jangling against words like enrichment, enforcement,
entitlement? Undercover, we speak with an accent
while despite you we encode the fallout, hoard these few
science-based relics of our recent past inside poems
because these are the last places you would ever look.

 

Lori Brack’s poems and essays have been published in journals (including Another Chicago Magazine, The Fourth River, Superstition Review, Mid-American Review) and anthologies (most recently, Rooted: The Best New Arboreal Nonfiction) since 2002. She manages a new project dedicated to developing Kansas artists in all genres.

Inspiration: The day after the CDC list appeared in the news, I saw a poem using them on social media and had an online conversation with poet friend Karen Craigo about trying our hands at the same thing. She alerted me to this project which gave me the impetus to mix the absurdity of banning words with my concerns about the rising threat of conflict with North Korea and my long obsession with Virginia Woolf’s writing.

 

On Guard against Exposure to Ideas [Ned Balbo]

What words will those in power declare taboo
to blur the line between what’s false and true?
Why do they feel uneasy, vulnerable?
Who else will they declare invisible?

Is truth transgendered, viewed with deep suspicion?
Can they erase those who reject their vision?
Is truth transmissible, a virus known
to spread by contact, or through words alone?

Fear isn’t science-based. An enemy
is needed: immigrants, diversity,
imagined foes….Scripture provides the lens—
Cause, cure, and risk are only dissonance

to be shut out, replaced by doublespeak.
The strong owe no protection to the weak,
and inconvenient truths, evidence-based,
are now regarded with the same distaste

by those whose power bestows entitlement—
who’d steal our very words and leave us silent….
Who will they ban when all of us are gone?
What else will they forbid before they’re done?

We can’t just wait till history unfolds
its measured arc…The future that it holds
(a fetus, frail, heart beating in the dark)
is ours, and all we need to strike the spark.

 

Ned Balbo’s 3 Nights of the Perseids, forthcoming in 2019, was selected by Erica Dawson for the Richard Wilbur Award. His previous books include The Trials of Edgar Poe and Other Poems (awarded the Donald Justice Prize and the Poets’ Prize), and Upcycling Paumanok (Measure Press). He received an NEA translation grant in 2017.

Inspiration: The prospect of CDC guidelines being used to erase people or perspectives that the current administration finds objectionable is repellant. That the same guidelines would seek to reduce the role of science in verifying research findings meant to help and heal is worse than troubling–it’s a full-on assault on our collective well-being.

 

another epidemic [Irène Mathieu]

what is entitlement to an American fetus –
a womb lined in hundred-dollar bills,
a mother who doesn’t know she’s vulnerable
sitting in a gold tower, picking out a golden
goblet for her prenatal vitamins. this isn’t
evidence-based – it’s a whim of the tax-slashed,
a sudden shift in mood, like telling the chef it’ll be
Indian, not Chinese tonight (never say
they don’t appreciate diversity).

this fetus will have a life made for TV.
it’s easy enough to concoct, almost science-
based. take one part money, one part white,
close the still-developing ears,
shrink the hands even smaller, forbid speaking
if gay, transgender, or a girl, keep inside the
tower, never open the windows, train the fetus
to look people in the hairline, never the eye,
teach it the importance of its unborn name.

and the father? he’s standing at the top of the tower,
still trying to climb higher. he will never be
tall enough, according to his father. he’s been told
that he was a disappointment even as a fetus.
he thinks he can hear the people below laughing
at him from here, talking, saying he’s wrong.
he’ll do anything to make them stop.
he’s been told so many lies
he doesn’t know the meaning of language.

 

Irène Mathieu is a pediatrician, writer, and public health researcher who has lived and worked in the United States, the Dominican Republic, Guatemala, Peru, and elsewhere. She is interested in social determinants of health, human rights, global public health, community-engaged research, and medical education. Irène is winner of the Bob Kaufman Book Prize and Yemassee Journal‘s Poetry Prize, and author of the book orogeny (Trembling Pillow Press, 2017) and poetry chapbook the galaxy of origins (dancing girl press & studio, 2014). She holds a BA in International Relations from the College of William & Mary and a MD from Vanderbilt University.

Inspiration: As a physician and poet I immediately thought about the importance of language in describing what we observe. I am particularly interested in health disparities, and the chosen words are clearly meant to undermine efforts to address equity. I wanted to capture the way in which cis, hetero, white, male entitlement is (re)created and passed on. I think this type of entitlement – and the willful ignorance it requires to be sustained – are an epidemic of their own, with devastating public health consequences.

Fear [Annie Reid]

Tolerance is an entitlement from the insects
each day they allow us to be vulnerable in
their world. They could choose to consume
us off the face of the earth in a single year.
This is science-based, this is not a lie we tell
ourselves to tantalize our sense of safety.
Some insects are transgender, far beyond your
limits: animals too, even the ones you call daughters
and sons. Diversity cannot be contained; sea-creatures
not yet known to humanity are reproducing without
binaries in the darkest crevices of the oceans. All
of this is evidence-based, all with antecedents far
more tangible than your mere will. It’s fun
to think you are endangered, as long as
you are safe. But if you really want to
scare yourself, think of the fetus growing
without your god, who has not given each
creature a purpose known to man. Consider the
seamonsters, unnamed in the depths, swimming
in the poisoned seas, waiting for their time
to come again. And think of the mercy of the
insects, as they consider you from the corners
of their kingdom, legs bent in their webs, as though
searching the air, sensing the vibrations, awaiting the
limit of a threshold.

 

Annie Reid is an American now living in Sweden. She’s published short fiction in several magazines, including American Short Fiction, Alaska Quarterly Review, Another Chicago Magazine, The Baltimore Review, Nimrod, and Prism International, among others. She has only recently begun writing poetry and this is her first published poem.

Inspiration: I began to think about the existential arrogance around the policing of language, as though we knew perfectly the moral compass of the universe, and the presumption that we’re in charge of it. This poem was an exploration of the fact that we don’t even know whose mercy we have the grace to survive under.

 

 

Like trying to keep a river in a birdcage [Daniel Ari]

Language is the mother. Meaning is the father. Or vice versa.
But let’s not get diverted into the trance gender engenders.

Point being: expression is a river. A levee, dense-based,
steers but doesn’t stop it. We are divers in this water,

a kind of diver’s city, dancing in the flow, over the dam.
Administration’s obstacle is nearly laughable. The bars

stand lined like bones, tangled ulnas, in the river. So send
the words you mean through the passive ulna rubble.

We find ways to describe the play of water and sky.
Cerulean and cyan spaced amid clarity, sublimating.

That’s what this poem’s transcendent title meant:
the river runs through, and no bird stays unflown.

Each embryo of thought has potential to grow into what
we want to say. Thin, rusting rules will not defeat us.

In the great flow of language and meaning, they feed us.

 

Poet laureate of Richmond, California, Daniel Ari created the 2017 Richmond Anthology of Poetry, the city’s first. His book One Way to Ask (Norfolk Press, 2016) combines original poems in a new form called queron with illustrations created and curated in collaboration with 67 artists including Roz Chast, R. Crumb, Henrik Drescher and Wayne White. The book won the Eric Hoffer da Vinci Eye Award for design. Daniel has had work published by Poet’s Market, Writer’s Digest, McSweeney’s, Winning Writers, Defenestration, carte blanche, Thema, NonBinary Review, and many others.

Inspiration: When I saw news of the banned word list, of course I was upset and angry; but I also knew that what needs to be expressed will get expressed. Even if certain government agencies risk censure by going against another government agency’s no-no list, language is greater than any petty and ultimately futile attempt to stop the truth. And the truth, of course, is even greater and more unstoppable than language. The attempt of the administration to snuff truth by banning a handful of words brought to my mind the metaphor of trying to keep a river in a birdcage.

 

Community Wishes [Lisa Furmanski]

While we brandish the gun it will not be vulnerable
to science, the only evidence will be patriot-based.

While gunshots are heritage, entitlement is violent,
based on the illness not the gun, so onward we

cower, crowds in a rain no longer water but steel.
We die a diversity of deaths. Bump stocks, semi-

automatics, high-capacity magazines, whose rapid fire
sportsmanship is science, a frontier-based entitlement.

Yet the only deaths we scrutinize are fetus-based. X
out sex from the stats, “other” couplings are evidence

of how vulnerable a body might be, and we wish to
de-fund the diversity riding a fetus. We die a science

of deaths, yet let reports show we die transgender-less.
Our study refuses to learn that less gender is less love.

 

Lisa Furmanski is a physician and writer living in New Hampshire. Her work has appeared in Poetry, The Gettysburg Review, The Antioch Review, and others.

Inspiration: My husband and I worked with the CDC in Uganda for several years. The scientists are brilliant, conscientious, and saving lives every day (think influenza, Ebola, obesity, swimming pools). To hamper them in any way, particularly in regards to language, endangers us all.