"On Good Friday 2023," "As Loneliness Spreads Like the Wildfires, I Wonder" and "An Abecedarian on the Iraq Invasion / Twenty Years Later, What Have We Learned"

On Good Friday 2023 

After traditional hours, Judge Matthew Kacsmaryk released his politicized gavel. The ruling dropped while I was at a belated Passover seder. The Trump administration appointee unexpectedly ordered a hold on mifepristone and demanded that the FDA stay its 2000 approval of the same. I spoke out of turn. Retold the story as I understood it. Sixty-seven pages hard to swallow. Guests around the table coughed bitter herbs, and the retelling of the text in the Haggadah was tossed for an impromptu review of the news. Even the seder was out of order. An exodus of justice amidst blatant disregard for evidence-based decades of precedential reality served in prime time. At the culmination of a week debating hush money payments fraudulently recorded in furtherance of another crime. Authority, in excess. Medication abortion and rights to decide again on the line. Stop. Stay. Hold.  

The judge is out of range. Caviar on his plate. Roe from wild sturgeon in the Caspian and Black seas. It’s the new American way. Indiscretions previously untold. Strings of syllables pool. An abortion pill. Access aborted. Another court. Out of order. Rights conflated. Attempts to reconcile moot. It’s hostile quarters. Justice spoiled. And, so, the wheels of justice turn – in reverse. Right. Hard. Brakes applied. Access denied. A judge nominated by a Republican dichotomy. Hypocrisy. Wall-to-wall corruption. All carpet soiled. While Kacsmaryk and team dine on caviar in plush seats, a woman’s right to make decisions about her own body continues to retreat. Treachery. Hypocrisy. Stop. Stay. Hold. 

The Federal government has seven days to appeal. On the eve of Easter Sunday. Like when the Israelites were forced to flee. There’s no time. No other way. Eggs fried. Bitter herbs in red ink. Plagues in our courts. The new American way. A twenty-three-year-old approval suddenly on the line. Women’s rights further compromised. Wait. As dessert, flour-free, warmed, more syllables strung. Breaking news. More. On tour. In brief. Another judge. From Washington State. A second ruling. A dueling opinion. In real time. The Eastern District of Washington. Applicable to 17 states and the District of Columbia. Aimed to protect rights. Access to mifepristone secure in spots specified. Confusion on all corners. All briefs soiled. Syllables roar. The FDA prepares to reply. Appetites out of order. Hush puppy potato knishes no longer prioritized. So many eggs on boil. Even more cracks. Impropriety stacked. The new American way. Stop. Hold. Stay. 

Take it to the highest court in the land, one might be inclined to say. No longer. Not today. Justice and the Justices compromised. SCOTUS on Trumpian steroids. The decision bought and verified. Sealed in twenty-four-carat gold. Clarence Thomas unable to comment. Too busy sweeping details of exorbitant spending under wall-to-wall carpeting. Good grief. Another ruling. Another day. I’d like to think this is purely a coincidence. A belated April Fool’s joke. Cruel but quickly revoked. No. Same story. Another no-good, terrible day. Vacation homes and stained clothes. Hush money. Over-extensions of authority. Shame on all corners. Unconcealed. Ulterior motives revealed. Stop. Hold. Stay. 

Stay. Away. Our bodies, our right. We must. We must 
elect a Congress to reinstate Roe v. Wade. 



As Loneliness Spreads Like the Wildfires, I Wonder

A voice on the radio talks about different forms of loneliness and the importance of friendship for all kinds of moments. Men, the scholar reports, struggle more than most. How is that possible, I counter, silently (of course), when the male population continues to rule most roosts. Struggle surely a matter of perception and subject to varying shades of the blues. The subject is largely taboo, even when addressing efforts to abolish solitary confinement. Our systems never great with issues of justice. Equal pay and gender parity both remain goals for which many stride. It’s a lonely ride. How might male friendships further alter the balance between what’s wrong and what’s right? Is kinship always kind and what will Trump’s confidants do in the face of blatant lies? As news of his indictment, times two, breaks, deals made with, for, and by pals wait. The indictment, all thirty-seven counts, parades in Times New Roman font across suddenly crowded airwaves. Post-COVID office watercoolers are no longer a lonely place. Two long-time Trump attorneys, both considered friends of the bloke, quickly resign. Allegiances on the line. There’s a fine line, I think, between resign and retire. Fire and retry. To be alone and to atone. To seek shade and to hide. To break ties and to apply the breaks. Lies and loneliness are often closely connected, it seems.

As the world waits
and loneliness spreads
like the wildfires,

I wonder
                                                          is anticipation
                                                          more or less kind
                                                          than caution
are recluses
the research

                                                          does loneliness
                                                          waltz with introverts
do Broadway lights
see shadows

                                                          do shooting stars
                                                          feel pain
did Shakespeare
seek a pen pal

                                                          did Faulkner
                                                          seek fame
is reclusiveness

                                                          do indictments
would Hemingway
dine with Thoreau

                                                          would Orwell
                                                          question isolation
how does
choice impact loneliness

                                                          do associative properties
                                                          transfer to social constructs
do literary tropes
translate to judicial robes

                                                          do beats linger
                                                          in empty streets
does an empty nest
crave (f)light

                                                          do torn jeans
                                                          crave (st)itches
is loneliness
at the end of every line

                                                          do scavengers recognize witch hunts

                                                          do witch hunts welcome surprise
does Margaret
still wonder about God’s existence

                                                          were the animals
                                                          on Noah’s Ark aware of their persistence
does Trump follow,
or experience loneliness
in real time


Reflection: As news of the Trump indictments broke, NPR was discussing the challenges of loneliness. I can’t help but wonder, will the former President ever pay the price for his wrongfulness while sitting alone.

Source: https://www.cnn.com/politics/live-news/trump-indictment-classified-documents-06-09-23/index.html



An Abecedarian on the Iraq Invasion
/ Twenty Years Later, What Have We Learned

At this hour, American and coalition forces,
Bush, the 43rd President of the United States,
broke the news and announced the
             beginning of a war
             both old and new,
             but aren’t they all --
             to (and of) a nation
connotation a blend of conviction (origins unknown)
             closed captions (veiled, unverified)
             clips, both text and audio blinding
             cautionary tales take turns on speed dial
             chaos on all corners.
Don’t do it
, dissenters pleaded. Radios tuned.
Exiles and pacifists suddenly united.
             exceptional circumstances
             enduring resistance
             hostility endemic
             amongst states of existence.
Facts speak. Fantasy peaks.
Frown lines turn to stone.
False premises inspire flawed logic.
             children on streets
             failures to find
             twenty years later
Few speak. Of the day. Of the night.
             fewer remember
             fleeting memories.
Generals and generations turn like sand timers.
Grief burns. Rubber soles crunch gravel. Mothers mourn skin and bones.
Hate is a word reserved for unique situations. Like hostility and hidden arms.
Henny Penny feared the sky was falling. Wilbur feared tomorrow.
             No one heard their questions
             Air, ground, combat all around.         
Iraq – grievances grow(l) in plain clothes and in court.
Judicial processes jammed.
Justice (declined / denied / in disarray).
Kernels and bits. Unverified. Little saturation.
Ladies and Gentlemen
Limited information can do that.
             To Me. To You.
             To Wilbur and Charlotte
             To mothers and fathers
Lack of ___ and ___
Landscapes and leaders crumble in layers.
March. March. March.
Names on parched tongues.
Now, 20 years later, boots and scars remain.
Officers, official allegations. The
Oval Office, a space ___ miles from on the ground operations.
Orders incite disorder.
People hurt. In plain speak. In plain sight.
Possible. Possibility.
Queries unreliable.
Reliable sources silenced. Careers on the line.
Speeches simultaneously empty and replete of limited
Training. Training lacking. Time watching.
Truth on the burner. Twenty years later.
Trust well placed. Wells then, and now, dry. Eyes wait.
Upheaval blinks. The utility of despair debatable.
Verdicts and voices whirl.  Voids scrawl. Life crawls. On radio. On repeat. Regular folk.
What’s a life anyway, Charlotte asked Wilbur. As if answers might matter.
We got him, Bremer, the diplomat said.
When the world waits. Watches. Wonders. Wanders.
Weapons of mass ____. Wounds wage internal wars.
Xs mark targets. Targets make marks. Souls slump.
Years persist. Some remain forever young. Mothers and fathers yearn.
             On all sides of the ocean floor. Gulfs widen.
             What’s left, Wilbur asks.
Zookeepers man cages. Human perpetually trapped.
Zealous warriors zap.
             ____, and ____.
             Twenty years later. Memory fades. Questions remain.



Jen Schneider

Jen Schneider is an educator who lives, writes, and works in small spaces throughout Pennsylvania. Recent collections include 14 (Plus) Reasons Why (free lines press), Evening Walks (Ethel Zine), and Months, Moments, & Mileage in the Rearview Mirror (Alien Buddha Press). She recommends Philly ASAP.


Edited for Unlikely by Jonathan Penton, Editor-in-Chief
Last revised on Thursday, November 2, 2023 - 23:03