Journalism in Verse – EST. 2016

5491731046_0d16c85f14_b (2)

A Forbidden Sestina

in Politics by

From the Censors for Disease Control and Redaction


The Post reported a list of words transcribed
from someone at HHS: You can’t say fetus;
it’s unborn baby now. Diversity
should not be encouraged. Entitlement
is out, you must earn what you have (or inherit). Avoid vulnerable
or people may see that you are. Science-based

might induce evolution. Evidence-based
must go, because you can’t know what is true. Transgender
too, you can’t know what is you.



                                                            Those vulnerable
snowflakes might complain, but baby,
we can say Merry Christmas again! And we’re entitled
to bring back other words. (Towelhead. Wetback. Pussy.) It’s not diversity

of language we’re losing, only diversity
of thought. Who cares if the discussion is debased?
The administration is entitled
to decide the truth; it’s a transformational
moment. And we, like a wounded king in a Child
Ballad, learn too late how vulnerable

we are.



                   We are always vulnerable
when we are alone. Our diversity
gives us a balance point, pulls us back from our mad adolescence.
We might not know yet from what hidden base
the last voices of reason will toss sensibility over the transom
in a brown paper envelope, a whisper-thin manuscript, almost untitled,

with words that read like wind in dying leaves, a title
written across the spaces between the pages, vulnerable
to the insidious wind, to the breath of a whisper: the peaceful transfer
of power that leaves no one at peace. Diverse
voices come together, speak up together, based
across the nation, together to be the adult

in the room, in any room, rising up like a flame from the corpse
of civil discourse, against men whose entitlement
knows no limits, to say “No more.” No psychopath playing to his base,
no politics of race, no nation abased, no preying on the vulnerable,
no more. All are welcome here.



is our strength. That’s not some transient

slogan that falls to the fear of some transgender bogeyperson or butchered fetus.
Our diversity isn’t some entitlement,
it is our strength, it is our defense, it is the foundation on which our vulnerable nation is based.



CDC director tells staff ‘There are no banned words,’ while not refuting report [STAT News]
Banned words at NIH and CDC? It’s deja vu again [Forbes]
Origin of Words [Poets Reading the News]

David Sklar lives in a cliffside cottage in New Jersey that may come crashing down if we get a big enough avalanche. His published works include poetry in Ladybug and Wormwood Review, fiction in Nightmare and Strange Horizons, and humor and satire in McSweeney’s and The Door. He is also the creator and curator of the Poetry Crisis Line.

Art by Thierry Mortier.

Latest from Politics



By Yvonne Daley. An open letter to Barack Obama on Presidents' Day.


By Heidi Seaborn. An erasure of the Articles of Impeachment on the
Go to Top