a literary review
The Joys of Being Suppressed
The quickest cut is made with black ink.
Gerrymandering is necessary
to save your freedom.
Unequal votes ensure the heard
will be heard louder.
Those who think cannot be trusted.
Beware the righteous
multiplying into the angry,
reserved for men with moustaches and sabers.
Natural selection naturally favors the top.
The country needs more cowboys, more
barons, more Amazon, more more.
Let Damocles’ sword be your wall, dividing
parents from children, the rainbow
Justice always delivers perfect judgments;
she has no eyes.
Guns only kill the guilty.
Let rules be free of reason, free
to die rightly wrong, free to pledge
your pound of flesh to kneel to a king.
This luxury of empire is paid with Kool-Aid,
the measuring scales swinging broken.
Let social media glue your eyes, fast
food evangelize your bellies, your bowls
emptier than half.
Your sacrifice for an Olympic dream
doped every fifteen seconds.
See how much stronger you are now cut into pieces,
See how beautiful you are when we
keep you small. What good leaders we are
to love you with such sharpness.
What Will We Read in the Pages of History?
Seven generations from now, we will unspool the twisted threads of 2020, wonder how a Joker who flew from the cuckoo’s nest became cannon and uncrowned king. We will wonder how savages dressed in white sheets and barbed jackets, mouths spewing razors like diseased machines, lounged in the Capitol, booted feet scratching the mahogany desks. We will explore the minutia of minds cabaling news, the teeth of a giant Fox pulping blood from fears. Analyze how the numbness of quarantine made people realize what true animals they were, needing to eat together, rub bodies at a bar, entwine hands as the sun disappeared from view, and they had only the darkness, only each other.
Was this what it took for them to realize the world was not a planet spinning through space? For them to realize the world was a baby locked in an incubator, trying to survive the hour, clinging tight to her mother’s praying hands. That her breaths, like calving glaciers, cracked church bells, tolling for all of them.
What was the rod that broke them? That made them realize their face was a 76-year-old Asian American woman, one eye blackened, body tremoring from fighting for life. We will watch them hold aloft lighters and mobile phones, a sky of erupting fists, shouting: “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.” Did they despair as they marched through streets blocked by batons and tear gasses? Why did it take so long for them to be free?
Why did they believe a gun had more rights than people did? Why did they believe the coronavirus cared who it killed? Did they wonder if they had failed somehow? Mistaken things for love? Mistaken people for trash? Mistaken themselves for merchandise? Did they beg the sun for guidance like children lost in the woods? No crumbs to follow. No friendly houses. Just the cold darkness. And only each other’s hands to hold, only each other’s hands to pull them back from annihilation.
Alixen Pham is published with The Slowdown, New York Quarterly, Salamander, Gyroscope Review, DiaCRITICS, Soul-Lit and Brooklyn Poets as Poet of the Week. She has been nominated for Best of the Net Anthology 2020-2021. She leads the Westside Los Angeles chapter of Women Who Submit, a volunteer-run literary organization supporting and nurturing women and non-binary writers. She is the recipient of Brooklyn Poets Fellowship, the Association of Writers and Writing Programs’ Writer-to-Writer Mentorship Program and PEN Center / City of West Hollywood Writing Craft Scholarship in Fiction and Nonfiction. She fusion bakes between writing poetry, fiction and nonfiction work.