A land of open arms is changing now.
Cold, closed, crossed: our borders block the entry
Of ordinary bodies homeward bound,
Although their stories make it to their country.
Sarvin Haghighi kept from her own husband,
Kamal Fadlalla’s doctor-training stopped,
Nael Zaino reaching for his son’s hand—
Called nameless risks, and of their families robbed.
What must the children think of punished parents,
Made into questions strewn across the sea?
Where once were people, now just “where?” and “when?”,
And “who’s this judge?” and “will he set Dad free?”
Of us, too, ask: will freedom turn its back?
Or will our rules make hearts and minds abstract?


Contaminated by disunity,
The land, a body, creeping with new horror,
Breaks out not just within community,
But all along new lines, a rash new war.
To cross these borders you must now surmount
Religion, region—differences exposed.
Before new standards, foreigners amount
To nothing; having nothing, they’re disposed.
Contagion spreads to longtime residents,
And quarantined are those from suspect places;
The orders from imperial residence:
Do not distinguish symptoms, only faces.
Until who’s well, or ill, cannot be vetted
And all the world is sick, all nations threatened.


On the day Creation set aside for rest,
This man, after one hebdomad of rule,
Enacted from his phobia, a test
Both unjust and unusually cruel.
For him, the heinous actions of a few
Have caused the Muslim faith to be defiled;
His amnesty is offered only to
Believers in Abraham’s other child.
As Christians, from American church steeples,
Welcome strangers in, like Good Samaritans,
Trump reviles these unlucky, displaced peoples
And claims “they’ll never be Americans!”
These emigrants now grounded between borders,
Sans hope or home, at the wall of Trump’s orders.


The brain in a vat, they used to call the test
Of whether fact, belief, and money all were real
Sensations, say, like moisture on the chest
Or water purling in a basin. Real
Was liquid, then, even when it was in vain.
Now all my doubt is wires and webs, fake news
From living just the way my vatted brain
Had wanted all along, thought it could use.
Did God have all the best Words, once?
Or, like poems, only coins and coinages,
Alt-shift-control, alternatives to nonce?
I cannot tell a lie on vetted stages.
And yet, in real air, and in real airplanes,
A stateless refugee opens his veins.