Trump’s Seven Forbidden Words [Kim Bridgford]

Who would object to any one of these—
Science-based, diversity, and fetus
It’s like when you’re polite, but don’t say please

(What difference, really, does it make)? The lies—
Entitlement and vulnerable—hit us.
Who would object to any one of these:

Evidence-based, transgender? OEDs
Reassert themselves from Wiki-itus.
It’s like when you’re polite, but don’t say please

(The way that we train all our PhDs).
But acquiescence will come back to bite us.
Who would object to any one of these?

Beware the military soft surprise:
It’s language first. So pretty, they can shoot us.
It’s like when you’re polite, but don’t say please.

They say that it’s a shower. Such naïfs!
You offer up yourself to barracudas.
Who would object to any one of these?
It’s like when you’re polite, but don’t say please.


Kim Bridgford is the director of Poetry by the Sea and editor of Mezzo Cammin.  The author of nine books of poetry, she is the recipient of grants from the NEA, the Connecticut Commission on the Arts, and the Ucross Foundation.  Her three-book project with visual artist Jo Yarrington, The Falling Edge, chronicling their trips to Iceland, Venezuela, and Bhutan, is forthcoming.  Bridgford is currently on sabbatical, reading about Antarctica.

Inspiration: Years ago, I worked as a military historian for the federal government.  In writing the history, I made a decision about what would be revealed and what would not.  “Trump’s Seven Forbidden Words” is about controlling the narrative:  eliminating some words might mean eliminating some discussions altogether.


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.


American Poetry [Gerry LaFemina]

In Memory of Thomas Lux

I recognize these claims I make are not science-based. I praise American poetry’s diversity for its diversity is its strength. Each poem conceived in a climax of inspiration—an image or an overheard phrase, or a word banned by bureaucrats, committees or point-totaling politicians, or you name it. Then the gestation of drafts.

I’m aware this is a terrible metaphor, but the poem becomes fetus and eventually gets its entitlement of a title. Most Americans don’t care, don’t read poems any more than they read medical journals. They remain ambivalent about peer reviews. Not that it matters.

Nor does it matter that sometimes revisions are transgenre-d—prose poems longing for lineation and vice versa: verse (free and formal both) believing it should be a paragraph, wanting only the cadence of the sentence. How vulnerable each word, each syllable. What evidence-based claims might the critics down the hall make with their deconstructions about these matters? I couldn’t construct their hypotheses or their outcomes, only know the myths of their methodologies. I wouldn’t want anything else. I recognize my claims are not science-based, but I praise American poetry for its diversity. Its diversity is its strength.


Gerry LaFemina’s newest collection of poetry, The Story of Ash, is forthcoming in 2018. His other books include numerous collections of poetry, prose poetry, and fiction, as well as Palpable Magic: Essays on Poetry and Prosody and the textbook Composing Poetry: A Guide to Writing Poems and Thinking Lyrically. He is an Associate Professor of English at Frostburg State University, and a writing mentor at the Carlow University MFA program.

Inspiration: My initial impulse was to pass on this project because I felt the pull to write a poem that was pedantic would be too hard to resist. It was only when looking at the word transgender and seeing how,  with a slight juxtaposition of letters, it could become transgenred that I found my “in” into the poem, which was to celebrate American poetry in all its amazing diversity, thus avoiding some of those potential pitfalls.


Three Science-Based Limericks [Sandra Simonds]

There once was an internet kitten
who was by a fetus bitten.
It was evidence-based, that kitten was chaste!
And now our TALE art written.

A VULNERABLE seeking entitlement
from the vital 1%
swept the McDonald’s, for one-hundred Donalds,
blessing her quarter-pounder retirement.

“Transgender and Diversity VERBOTEN!”
shouts Klaxon the A-hole they vote-in.
His life is bereft, girls always swipe left:
GUNS are his only emotion.

Sandra Simonds is the author of six books of poetry: Orlando (Wave Books, 2018), Further Problems with Pleasure (winner of the 2015 Akron Poetry Prize, University of Akron Press, 2017), Steal It Back (Saturnalia Books, 2015), The Sonnets (Bloof Books, 2014), Mother Was a Tragic Girl (Cleveland State University Poetry Center, 2012), and Warsaw Bikini(Bloof Books, 2009). Her poems have been included in the Best American Poetry 2015 and 2014 and have appeared in many literary journals, including Poetry, the American Poetry Review, the Chicago ReviewGrantaBoston Review,  PloughsharesFenceCourt Green, and Lana Turner. In 2013, she won a Readers’ Choice Award for her sonnet “Red Wand,” which was published on, the Academy of American Poets website. She lives in Tallahassee, Florida and is an Associate professor of English and Humanities at Thomas University in Thomasville, Georgia.

Inspiration: Bad times call for BAD VERSE.

Lab Coat Blues [Kate Bernadette Benedict]

Oh, I got those science-based, gotta-cry blues.
I said, those wretched research blues.
I ain’t cured nothin’, that’s my only news.

Oh, I got me evidence-based blues.
’Cause evidence all proves my life’s a ruse.
No gal will ever see my name in them Who’s Who’s.

It’s humblin’, yes, humblin’. I’m vulnerable these days.
Sing it loud: it’s humblin’. I’m in a vulnerable daze.
My lab rat’s double-crossed me. She don’t run my maze.

That rat was born’d transgender. A most intriguin’ thing.
Yes that he rat was a she rat. She ain’t got that shwing.
A few swings of a scalpel knife and off went that thing.

Now she wants a litter, little babies, yessir!
She wants little babies. There’ll be no rat fetus for her.
She got no place to grow ’em down under all that fur.

Oh, I got those science-based sad-rat blues,
I said, those wretched lab rat blues.
My star lab rat is pinin’, that’s my only news.

Entitlement!—badass blunder that I made.
Assumed I was entitled even tho’ no dues were paid.
No rat’s in my maze, I ain’t makin’ no grade.

I’m takin’ off my lab coat, I’m quittin’ this life.
Diversity’s a thing these days. I’ll live a different life.
Goodbye to rats, bye petri dish, bye knife.

I got those science-based, gotta-cry blues.
Them sad-rat, barren-rat blues.
I ain’t good for nothin’; that’s my only news.


Kate Bernadette Benedict, of Riverdale, New York, is the author of Earthly Use: New and Selected Poems (2015).

Inspiration: These are difficult times and the banned words are difficult words, prosaic and highly charged. So why not try something funny? I figured blues stanza would be utterly daft, and it was, and it led me to this nutty tale of a lab researcher and his sad and stubborn rat.


Reaching Across the Divide [Michele Battiste]

We reject
the evidence—based
on science based on
entitlement—as we are not
the kind of people who spend
their days turning knobs on a
microscope and calling it labor.
Who scribble in notebooks and
want to be applauded. Who bemoan
the insufficiency of their research
assistantships. Their reality isn’t ours
and so their facts are alien and don’t
bother to make introductory overtures.
Is it diversity if we  are not included?
Diversity is a kind   word for a fundamental
difference of life      experience and consequently
a separate set of         accepted givens, some apparently
perceived as              valueless. Only the most vulnerable
are terrified                 of disappearing or worse. Being visible
and not mattering                at all. We save buttons. Our
grandmothers serve                  several cups of tea from one bag.
If we didn’t have God                   we would lash out in hopelessness
and drown the weak. If                       we want to give a fetus rights,
it’s because we understand                         helpless. Tell me what you are
capable of when you                                 are afraid. Our plane is going down
and it is your sky.                                    Your feminist sky. Your transgender
sky. Your evidence-                                     based, science-based, irrefutable sky.
We see your sky                                          glittering with stars even when the sun rises.


Michele Battiste is the author of Uprising and Ink for an Odd Cartography, both from Black Lawrence Press.

Inspiration:  In a conscious move toward healing, I am attempting to be receptive and open to the feelings and perceptions of people on the other side of the political divide. I’m not always successful.

I Am My Own Transgender Fetus [Kim Dower]

My mother thought I was a lesbian
when I came home from college
wearing a flannel shirt fresh from a March
across the Boston Common, the ‘70s
no entitlement back then, no transgender
friend, we all hid inside our sleepless nights
smoking fat joints of science-based conclusions
rolling out our private stomach aches watching
evidence stack up higher than we could see.
I feel so vulnerable tonight, hungry for diversity–
where is my entitlement–I am my own
transgender fetus floating in a tank with no borders
banging my soft unformed skull into the glass ceiling
seeking any spray of light as our world rolls backward
over a grassless hill of mutant crickets button up
your collar until your mouth is invisible all evidence-based
science-based beautiful womb-faced lips erased
who doesn’t crave a chance to say banned words
hear their echo like vapor stain the wall of our lives
our slurred speech aching for clarity.


Kim Dower is the City Poet Laureate of West Hollywood through October, 2018.  She is the author of three collections of poetry, all published by Red Hen Press, with a fourth collection, Sunbathing on Tyrone Power’s Grave coming in the Spring of 2019.

Inspiration: As soon as I read the news story that seven words had been banned from use by the CDC, I wanted to use those words in a poem. Then I read about the CDC Poetry Project.  Perfect. My inspiration for the poem?  Shock, despair, and the pleasure of using newly banned words.