December 17, 2017 (Lisa Fay Coutley)

In line at the post office, no one’s less vulnerable
than the next to the heart’s heft, to the diversity
of ways we express missing. Still we feel entitled,
waiting to be helped: the elderly, the transgender,
the woman clutching a poster Xing the word fetus
on the corner outside the glass. I’d say, science-based

data shows, though I suppose she’d hear séance-based
when I really mean, we are all subject to, vulnerable
together yet alone in that, as well. She’ll deny a fetus
doesn’t have a soul, use the word murder to divert,
claiming that a baby’s parts are present, its gender
determined. & who am I to say she is not entitled

to her belief when my own sense of entitlement
makes me shake, my body having a science-based
response to a woman who’d see her transgender
child as an abomination rather than a vulnerable
human like each of us—with their own diverse
& real needs. She’d have me believe this fetus

is a baby, not a choice, & a baby (never say Fetus)
is born into a body chosen by god & not Entitled
to experience the human range, its Great Diversity
of emotions & constraints inside its Science-Based
brain made to bear suffering, though Vulnerable
is wrong. Binary is right. Never shall Transgender

be accepted, he said, even when genders cross
inside us, which is surely solid logic POTUS
endorses from his crooked office—venerable
man that he claims to be in his divine entitlement
which the literate world with its evidence-based
thinking cannot comprehend, despite such diverse

efforts. I digress. I mean, yes, despite our differences
we are here, waiting to mail love across vast bodies
of rock & water, at this USPS office established
by a governing body that continues to feed us
the divisive rhetoric that exacerbates our privilege
to such an extent that we can’t tolerate being exposed

to a diverse line of people who make us vulnerable
yet entitled because they’re “other”—not my gender,
not my color, not my fetus awaiting its science.

Lisa Fay Coutley is the author of Errata (Southern Illinois University Press, 2015) and In the Carnival of Breathing (Black Lawrence Press, 2011), and is an Assistant Professor of Poetry in the Writer’s Workshop at the University of Nebraska at Omaha.

Inspiration: A few days ago I was standing in line waiting to mail a package to a friend, and the woman behind me (in a rather long line) grew audibly impatient, and I smiled at her and said, just think how much we must love one another to wait in line this way to mail packages to someone else as a way to alleviate the loneliness on both ends. She smiled, and told me that was a very nice way to think of it, and we discussed what we were mailing to whom, etc, and later in the day I saw the forbidden words circulating and married the experience at the post office with my refusal to be shut up by an administration that cannot be allowed to silence us.

 

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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.

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.

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.

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.

 

 

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.