Three Poems

By J. Khan


She traces lines,

then lifts her eyes to ask:

Who will you save?

What did she see

in my hands

upturned to heaven?

Perhaps bats rising

from my palms, swarms

winging into night.

In the glare

of my smartphone

I Google death

stare at a picture

of an infected Princess

off the coast of Cali.

In the cradle of my hand:

maps of the earth,

bleeding red borders.

I walk to the sink,

scrub with soap, wash

until water runs clear.

The Orwellian Jab

Think not to question the imminent jab,
nor tales of Middle Kingdom caves and bats:
Nope, no viral hacks at the Wuhan Lab.
Science has spoken. Facts is facts.

CDC insists masks don’t stop covid,
then they claim two are safer than one.
If science is fact, then which one is it?
Do we march lockstep to a conundrum?

If loose truths spark insurrections
and dangerous lies spread like SARS,
give us a Ministry of Information
headed by our own reality Czar.

Shoot me quick with messenger RNA:
just let me live to say I rue the day.


I used to cross the street
from my office to see Dad.
We munched on samosas
and forkfuls of biryani.
Sipped chai and talked
Dow Jones.
Now a phone call is all.

“What did you just say?”

I raise my voice, enunciate,
but he still mistakes me
for my brother.

“Oh fine,” he replies,
and then jumbles English
and Urdu
into nonsense.

Once a week I set
a grocery sack
of canned soups, oatmeal,
oranges, bananas, milk,
outside his door:
ring the door bell
and head for the car.

The author lives above a dying aquifer in the Great Plains region of the US. His poetry book Speech in an Age of Certainty is available from Finishing Line Press.


We live with Covid and it’s impact on those around. Our response is based upon the information we believe as well as social norms, existing relationships, and societal risks. Is certainty a greater risk than misplaced uncertainty? Should we consider that we, what ever side we take, may be the ones in the wrong?

Certainty marks the strength of our attachment to a belief or authority. Certainty, however, does not make it true or false. Yet this is the flimsy emotional basis for how we often choose what to believe. When facts are in dispute, perhaps we should resist the error of mistaking our personal certainty for capital-T Truth. While reality may be a concrete pavement, our beliefs as to where it leads and how to get there are mostly aspirational and already gaslighted.

The sonnet interrogates this dilemma: an ambivalence that many feel but others are quick to dismiss. It attempts to bridge misunderstanding.

Alienation from aging relatives is heartbreak. Palmistry has been previously published but is out of copyright.

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