The American Journal of Poetry
"Strong Rx Medicine"®


David Bart

Scene from a Moral Panic



Two ladies came

to question my son, prompted him to remember

how a constable, his teacher and a party magician

took him from his classroom, sat him beside

a corpse in an ice cream truck. Could he recall

for them that time the mayor's wife drove him

to a Baptist encampment where a bad nurse took

his temperature, let candles drip on his stomach?

How a grandmother was hung by the neck

then her eyes opened and she played the organ.

Somebody's father wore a Raggedy Ann costume,

a doctor danced naked with a cannibal clown.


Could he identify the school board members

who dismembered a dog, pricked his finger,

performed a ritual to replace his arm with the arm

bone of Satan? Would he recognize the TV news

anchor who took kids to the Y where a gorilla was bled

or the janitor who put staples in his tongue

and buried a girl on the playground?


The Child Savers took my son in loco parentis

to inspect his nervous physique, coaxed him

to call out the devil's prefects, recreate scenes

of sadistic coprophilia on a doll with snap-on genitals.

They took my bright, happy son and brought back

a boy I've never met, one who looks as if his heart

is tearing out of him as he chokes up tales

of infanticide fed to him by a clutch of raging inquisitors

concealed in polyester and clip-on laminate faces,

The Furies reborn.



David Bart

These Things Happen


July 4th celebrants trampled

their nachos and sangria

to escape the burning spray

of pyrotechnic stars

when a two pound firework

misfired on the ground.

Extinguishers turned the grass



       A blue burqa hid the grieving

       woman flogging herself

       on The News, then she crumpled

       at the feet of a shirtless troop

       with a shoulder wound

       for an epaulet—

       an improvised device

       exploded in Takrit.


       Through night vision

       a burned out Hummer

       glows fluorescent and local boys

       who clambered up to brandish

       a soldier's lost kit slink away

       like ferrets with silver eyes

       and emerald skin.


After some whiny rebukes,

the firework display continued.

Kids atop a Minivan watched,

faces green with glo-sticks,

hands on their ears.

Only their hearing was hurt.




DAVID BART, a writer from Arlington, Texas, directs creative writing projects for elementary students and presents interactive stories for young people. His poetry appears most recently in The American journal of Poetry, Poet Lore, Slipstream, San Pedro River Review, Cattlemen and Cadillacs (Dallas Poets Community Press) and at



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