“It’s just this, you’re injured.”

-Claudia Rankine, Citizen, An American Lyric.




I swallow the anger

but it does not settle;

my mouth reveals

reflux and dismay.


Your face purses

knowing the they

of your nightmares

have cornered you


again, and I

collude, or am

at best a dupe

of these enemies


as long as I believe

silently in paranoia,

plead for a better life

through chemistry,


as if they were never

real, they who live

I know, but not with

the divinity you bestow


on them

and I am left alone

to wait them out

with you.




A native New Yorker, James Penha (jamespenha.com) has lived for the past two decades in Indonesia. He has been nominated for Pushcart Prizes in fiction and in poetry. Snakes and Angels, a collection of his adaptations of classic Indonesian folk tales, won the 2009 Cervena Barva Press fiction chapbook contest; No Bones to Carry, a volume of his poetry, earned the 2007 New Sins Press Editors’ Choice Award. Penha edits The New Verse News, an online journal of current-events poetry at newversenews.com.