The Rumpus Inaugural Poems: JoAnn Balingit


Each day from January 7 through January 20, Rumpus Original Poems will feature work in response to the coming presidential inauguration. Today’s poem is from JoAnn Balingit.





The grownups keep saying to be calm and donate to animals
but the storms in my heart are too loud, even if they help you
evolve, Ma says, so for an energy filter I meditate with my iPod

but as soon as someone insists my cleverness is the cause of my anxiety
I want to tell them RELAX is not the same as BE STUPID—
since Friday a dozen people got shot and is it safe

for illegals? Ma believes in love, gratitude, laughter, cupids and candles.
Every time I tell her I can’t cope with the stress, she refers to music.
To me sanctuary is physical, has a body, teeth that can be

kicked in. Ma says I need to get some spirit, we can talk about it
in 15 more minutes. When Angel disappeared, it was his car
registration sticker expired. I can’t believe they call the lockup

ICE. When I say nobody but American Indians really comes from here
the boy at school says the United States became the greatest thing
that ever happened to the world, even if not everybody

gets to benefit from the rules. He yells, Before we were immigrants
at least we were conquerors! My parents argued when Da found out
how much money Ma gave the elephant fund, while my little sister’s

busy drawing turkey hands and getting in the way. That kid was born here
amongst the conquerors and I bet she marries one. Then I’ll remind her
I am not a flood and nobody opened the gates for me. Now Ma is giving

a dollar to send “Nosey” to a real sanctuary because somebody hooked him
to a trailer weighing more than a ton. I too am a draft horse whose hoofs
need shoes, whose soul is not waterproof, whose energy center leaks,

whose refuge is not horizontal not black & white, more like dawn
rolling over me from grey into a hundred shards of roses hand-painted
in my scared dreams. Sometimes I love how Ma stirs the chili pot

and watches a kangaroo on YouTube. When I say, Ma we need to talk
about a Sanctuary City, she says, Hey isn’t that the name of a cosmetics
center in Arlington? Her motto is “Never microwave anything

you care about.” I’ll save it for my children; but also, “We Are People
Not Preventable Crimes” and “I am a Mini-Donation to Everyone I Know!”
Now that the world is in turmoil, my motto is “Like a raptor

I fall on my enemies with ferocity, because I am kind.”

– JoAnn Balingit


JoAnn Balingit is an arts-in-education advocate who served as Delaware’s poet laureate 2008 to 2015 and an assistant editor for YesYes Books. She’s author of Words for House Story, a 2015 Best Books pick at Beltway Poetry. Her poems appear in Best New Poets, DIAGRAM, Academy of American Poets, Kweli Journal, PoetsArtists, Salt Hill and Verse Daily. She was a 2016 Mid Atlantic Arts Foundation fellow at Virginia Center for the Creative Arts; and a Bread Loaf Bakeless fellow at the Camargo Foundation. She teaches young writers in the public schools to help fuel the resistance. Visit her at

Original poetry published by The Rumpus. More from this author →