This Poem’s the GOAT

It is what it is which isn’t
as obvious as it might seem.
Could be your answer
if you’re being cross-
examined for doing the right thing
such as leaving jugs of water
in the desert or fastening
yourself to a door or machine.
Does that make sense?
It does if you look around
and see how absolutely
desperate people can be—
we’re talking nothing
to eat
and not getting killed,
not just stress or quiet quitting.
Or if you see what the sea
is doing, or earth’s ice,
or the forests, or the air,
you don’t need a PhD
in math to figure out
what an inflection point is.
Going forward, the numbers
are amazing: thirty-five billion
metric tons of CO2 a year,
a hundred million refugees,
eight billion mouths to feed.
Irregardless of what I know
the ones running the show
insist it’s not so bad,
gaslight me by claiming war
brings us peace, billionaires
give us jobs, and that
a rising tide lifts all boats.

About the Poem

This week I heard a small news feature about the “2023 Banished Words List” on the radio this week. The somewhat playful list is created by Lake Superior State University in Michigan, and – as I listened to a description of the list – I wanted to create a topical poem that captured the spirit of this list and also used all ten of the “banished” words and phrases.

About the Author

Murrey’s poems have appeared most recently in Split Rock Review, Another Chicago Magazine, and Rust + Moth. He’s an NEA Fellowship recipient, and his collection, Bulletproof, was published in 2019 by Jacar Press. He was a public school librarian for over twenty years and lives in Urbana, Illinois with his partner; they have two grown sons. His website is at: and he is on Twitter and Instagram @mytwords.

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