See, D.C. [Ariana-Sophia Kartsonis]

Not the animals disassembled
into discardable or valuable parts.
The old ivories of no piano

unable to make that dirge sing
for me. Piece by piece,
there’s no harmony, no reckoning.

Don’t give them your science, based
on no God, take the stars, cheap
string-lights of our consolation.

Look up. The moon’s a fetus
crescented cold against all this.
From silence, accuse

the constellations, their bright braille,
and read that diversity of mythology,
fable, any tale, to say we matter. Take the stars

off the pushpins, then. Trace
them with your mortal fingers
as proof we’re one more tiny, nothing-entity.

I try to get there, but the dots don’t sync
Connect them though I try.
There’s no reckoning.

The crime? Identity? The evidence
base, destrustive, a typo, or a word
that swallows trust inside its own proclivity

to destroy what it can’t unbelieve.
Entitlement’s fur coat pulled tight
against all vulnerability.

The animals, the walking-dead.
The woman, as epidemic, as pre-existing
amenity. Something you get for free

upon check-in. The transgender satellites
smear light. Fireflies we smash just to write
our own names with their bodies.

 

Ariana-Sophia Kartsonis, author of the poetry collections Intaglio and The Rub and the chapbook Aloha Vaudeville Doll, works at Columbus College of Art & Design where she serves as faculty advisor for Botticelli Magazine.

Inspiration: These seven words touch so many other words as they are singled out for erasure. I wanted to create a rhythm of reckoning in their use and for their banishment. I wanted that reckoning for every vulnerable being that suffers anew under the dim light of now.

 

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.

 

America Ain’t Easy (Adrian Blevins)

when the saw mills are gone cause the Internet is plastic
& the granny quilts are heating pads from China
& somebody’s once-fetus needs surgery & would get it
if people had hearts in the form of health insurance
but don’t because they despise the poor & women
& immigrants & African Americans & the transgender
& gay & things that are science-based & evidence-based
& all I’m saying is, America ain’t at all easy

when you must think non-stop about stupid Trump
& other grotesqueries such as what a dead goose
in the form of a country looks like & what a dead goose
in the form of a country feels like lolling here inside you
like a long-necked stone in the pit of something
like your stomach but worse such as your throbbing
heart of diversity I guess where once you’d hoped
to learn to darn socks at least metaphorically

& arrange winterberries on farmhouse mantels
to soothe the grandkids who were to soothe you back
during the more vulnerable senior years. But now
grandkids are an entitlement for the rich you guess
& thus you don’t want them anymore because
what if they needed surgery—what if they had
just one eye—what if they wanted the story of America
& all you had was a little porridge & venom & spit?

 

Adrian Blevins is the author of Appalachians Run Amok, winner of Two Sylvia Press’s Wilder Prize, forthcoming spring 2018; Live from the Homesick Jamboree; The Brass Girl Brouhaha; and a co-edited collection of essays, Walk Till the Dogs Get Mean: Meditations on the Forbidden from Contemporary Appalachia. She teaches at Colby College in Waterville, Maine.

Inspiration: The Trump Administration’s very scary authoritarian bent inspired me to write this poem, and really has me in perpetual freak-out mode.

 

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.

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?

Ghazal for Cinetherapy [Jennifer Litt]

When the election left me vulnerable & in a state of lord have mercy,
I watched Carol & Moonlight for some over-the-rainbow sexual diversity,

& what felonious politicians & Putin stole from us females & Hillary,
I retrieved in The Danish Girl via severed penis, such surgical diversity,

such evidence-based bravery when a gentle man risks his life for the lady
inside, the transgender fetus. Room & Spotlight exposed sexual-abuse diversity.

I insist on control over my privates & my private life. I’m guzzling Pinot Gris,
ignoring science-based studies about pickling my liver, but alcoholic diversity

is one of my social circle’s specialties. We suffer our depression, slurp martinis
or microbrews & watch movies in the dark. Entitlement, Jen? No, call it diversity.

 

Jennifer Litt is the author of the chapbook, Maximum Speed through Zero, published in 2016 by Blue Lyra Press in its Delphi Series, Volume 2, and her poems have appeared in several journals and magazines, including Gulf StreamLuminaMixed FruitNaugatuck River ReviewnycBigCityLit and Stone Canoe.

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.