Scoundrel Time

Three Poems by Jeneva Burroughs Stone

White Armada


pale winter sun glints off
raised metallic plastic letters
on the broad
rear of a meticulously
white SUV—this whale
of a vehicle
(already mixed
has just pulled from a side street
in front of me

I’m driving our disability van
with its rear ramp
& the rusted tailpipe
I noticed dangling
bear-claw scratches
on what I’d call
its hips
if I amplified “body”
to its full ableist

my van is large
but the ARMADA
is bigger

& thus I know I’m looking
at a version
of what I could have become

an ARMADA of
raw socioeconomic
into a perfect storm
of failed conquest
rage and revenge

best remembered
as a fleet of ships
headed to its doom
last gasp of the Spanish Empire
on Irish shores
driven back by Queen Elizabeth
(the first one)
with her flaming red hair
rallying her troops
by proclaiming
she had the heart and stomach
of a man

that might
have been me without
the reality check
my disabled son extends
that fundamental
rights are not
nor inalienable

QE1 pacing her steed
back and forth
along the shore
its tail flicking
as it turned
watching distant
silent pops of fire as
imperial Britain
sallied forth at last
just in time for
the enlightenment

or Ahab stumping
along the Pequod’s
fated deck
shattered by
the whale
its puissance only
as destruction

for who’s to say
cannot be pursuit
of happiness
for therein
lies the rub
of our predicament:
life-liberty (et. al.)
are predicated on
a long train
of abuses and usurpations

and wherein lies
a recognition
for equal access
—the ramp of time?—
except within
a fusty throat-clearing
(general) welfare?

so be it
a wheelchair user
may chase happiness
or try to
on less than
$2K per year

(which is why
I read “our prosperity”
into “our posterity”
when in the course of
any event money
forges opportunities

(which was
Ahab’s confusion:
that high Quaker mixology
of worthiness
with prosperity)

slows unexpectedly
to make a lumbering
turn into a narrow driveway
& as in fact I suspected I would
I do
miss the light


The War Did End


the dog turned round
three times
before settling into sleep

we felt sorry for it

the war shivered wet
a black dog
its paw on the screen door

we did not let it in




Generational Neuropathy


Politics tries to annihilate its own consequences in a bright nuclear blast. For a nanosecond, everything (for once) is illuminated. But there’s always another war to end all wars. Remember the Doonesbury cartoon about Star Wars—no, not that one, Reagan’s pet project—Oops! one got through. ‘Bye.

How will I know you in the afterlife? It’ll be recorded, I imagine.

Then the towers fell and fell, imploding story by story, all the way down. Even the great antenna. News ran on a loop of destruction, resolution, imperative, fight. The weight of history become literal. No one debated a tragedy on American soil, not even me.

Shock and awe—a fine nickname for a short war that wasn’t.

My grandmother carefully taped a sign to her door in assisted living—Support Our Troops. She meant, don’t question a war’s rationale. Seven years into said conflict, my grandmother passed away, as if she didn’t need to know the outcome anymore. She had neuropathy, her feet tingling, unfeeling. The dictionary calls it, Temporary or permanent numbness.




Note: The Doonesbury cartoon referred to in “Generational Neuropathy” is here:


Jeneva Burroughs Stone is the author of MONSTER (Phoenicia Publishing), a literary hybrid on disability, caregiving and the science of rare disease. She has received fellowships from MacDowell and Millay Arts. Her work has appeared in many literary journals. She and her son Rob volunteer for several disability and health care rights organizations. For more:


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