Scathing Political Satire

Jabberwocky is a Pre-Existing Condition (Apologies to Lewis Carroll and the American People)

By Katherine Sanger

Lewis Carroll
Went through the slithy toves,
and gimbled
in the wabe,
be-wared the Jubjub bird
and the Bandersnatch.
He tried to unsheath
the vorpal sword
but was snared by paperwork

“The Jabberwocky”
they told him
“is a pre-existing
You cannot slay
it using this insurance.
Please fill out
the appropriate forms
to process your request
for care.”

Lewis Carroll
Rested by the Tumtum tree
In the middle
of the tulgey wood
standing uffish
watching the flaming eyes
of the Jabberwocky
listening to the whiffling
and burbling
and wishing
he was still a beamish boy





Katherine Sanger was a Jersey Girl before getting smart and moving to Texas. She’s been published in various e-zines and print, including Baen’s Universe, Black Chaos, and RevolutionSF, and is a member of HWA and SFWA. Her poetry has won numerous awards, including First Place in Byline’s “Autumn Poem” contest, First Place in “Lucky Thirteen” contest sponsored by Sol Magazine, and Honorable Mention in: The Houston Chapter Award. She recently completed her MFA in Creative Writing with the University of Tampa.



To read Lewis Carroll’s original “Jabberwocky” poem, click here.

Thyroid Issues

For Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis

By Jen Karetnik

I follow idols down a scripted path
toward the reproduction of fickle cells,
swallowing substitutes like an oath.

With the return of desire is growth,
new hair, fuzzy as leaves, fingernails
punching points in the soft skin of the path,

and years released with every pent breath.
Yesterday, tomorrow, hope is a scale
that weighs substitutions like an oath,

and far above my head is the wispy wreath.
But today there is that glorious fuel
that powers me down an uncharted path,

and between day and night I can choose both;
today I dress in pearls that gleam like pills.
Wallowing in permission like an oath

I have no limits to argue with—
I can eat ice cream, pay bills, paint walls—
as long as I follow this prescripted path,
swallow forever the exact same oath.




“For Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis” was previously published in American Sentencing (Winter Goose Publishing, 2016) and is posted here with the author’s permission.

Jen Karetnick is the author of seven poetry collections, most recently American Sentencing(Winter Goose Publications, 2016), finalist for the 2017 Julie Suk Award, and The Treasures That Prevail (Whitepoint Press, 2016), finalist for the 2017 Poetry Society of Virginia Book Prize. The winner of the 2017 Hart Crane Memorial Poetry Contest, the 2016 Romeo Lemay Poetry Prize and the 2015 Anna Davidson Rosenberg Prize, Karetnick’s work appears or is forthcoming in Crab Orchard Review, The Evansville Review, Guernica, Prairie Schooner, Verse Daily and Waxwing. She works as the Creative Writing Director at Miami Arts Charter School and as a freelance dining critic, journalist and cookbook author.



For more information about Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis (the most common type of thyroiditis), you can check out the UK National Health Service or the American Thyroid Association.

Cerebral Palsy


By Carolyn Agee
I rip up the card; brightly colored bits
of cardboard fall from my fingers like red, white, and blue confetti.
“Brave, inspirational” –inspirational for being seen in public in a wheelchair?
For refusing to have my vote suppressed?
I was proud to caucus, to participate in democracy,
but without ADA access, pride turned to regret, rage, resolve.
Titanium frame gripped by three sets of foreign hands.
Up three flights of dilapidated stairs.
Because the party who wants to run my government
thinks my civil rights are a suggestion.
And their opposition is nostalgic for eugenics.




Carolyn Agee is an actress, author and spoken word performer living on the Puget Sound. When she isn’t suffering from existential depression, she enjoys petrichor, unknown forest trails and intimate gatherings of kindred spirits. Her books include “Ever Silence Menacing” (Mount Analogue— Political Pamphlet Series, 2016), “Drowning Ophelia” (Red Bird Chapbooks, 2017) and the forthcoming YA novella “The Ambiguous Tides of Saudade” (Wolfsinger Publications, 2017).



To learn more about Cerebral Palsy, please check out the links here and here

Learning Disabilities · Mental Health - Other

not an average brain

By Leeann Sinniger

The doctor keeps upping my meds for the voice in my head.
Maybe I should have just stayed in my bed.
My bed has stains from tears that I cry.
And I can’t figure out why.
These ups and downs.
They call it bipolar .
Just another label.
And this is not fable.
I draw with a blade.
Making none of my friends stay.
Only scars remain.
No one understands so I just hide it all inside.
I don’t even know why.
I just can’t explain my pain.
I choose to stay no matter if they go away.
I don’t meet the right standards.
The teachers say they can stand her.
No she is smart.
You are ignorant for underestimating her.     All kids learn differently.
Don’t look at me like I have a disability.
Just because I gave trouble with my brain.
I will try not to leave stains.
I will fight the voices to try to make the right choices.

Hello I am Leeann Sinniger. I am 17 years old.  I like to journal my feelings. I am diagnosed with a learning disability and bipolar depression. Hopefully this will help some people understand what I have to go through.

Talking about mental health can take an incredible amount of bravery from even the most confident adult, and I am inspired by Leeann’s willingness to write about her struggles and share them with us at such a young age. She deserves a huge round of applause for her courage. I have known Leeann since she was a little kid, and she was my student back when I taught middle school Sunday school at the Huntingdon CMA. I am so happy and excited to have seen her grow so much over the past few years! 

Pre-existing Poems has had so many submissions from wonderful poets from all levels of writing experience, and I’ve never felt so humbled and grateful. I would love to see more stuff from teens like Leeann come my way.

There are many different types of learning disabilities which can affect people of all ages. To find out more about them, check out LDA America.

If you or a loved one are feeling suicidal or have the urge to self-harm, please reach out for help. You can call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 in the United States. If you’re nervous about the idea of calling a hotline, I also found this post that explains what usually happens when you do make the call.


“It’s Nothing,” You Said.

By Lu Pierro

A doctor’s visit delayed
until nothing was 3 centimeters round,
The diagnosis: the C word.
A word we couldn’t say,
a word that caught in our throat
filling us with  phlegm- like dread.

And so we entered a new country
with a new language.
Words like carcinoma, hematology
and dysplasia became as common as say
hair and blood and nausea.

We became a cluster,
a coterie shrouded in scarves,
We joined the Church of  Miracles
taking our plastic lazy boy seats
with our fellow supplicants
in the oncology ward.

Each had their own bottle of salvation
that dripped hope and despair
in the same vein.

For you, there was no redemption.
When the flesh loosened from your bones
and your teeth shone like alabaster tombs,
I knew the gateway had opened.
The time had come for you to shatter
into nothing
and into




Author’s Note:  My father, George Bisignano suffered from mesothelioma, an incurable cancer of the lungs.  Despite choosing no chemo, no radiation, the bills were astronomical, and continue to arrive like enveloped white ghosts.

A recipient of the Dodge Foundation and the Dorothy E. Laurence Scholarship, Lu Pierro has published work in numerous small press publications including Blast Furnace and Three and a Half.9.  She studied English at Douglass College and creative writing at Warren Community College.  Lu lives in bucolic Hunterdon County with her husband John and her non-alcoholic cat, Tipsy. She is the author of The Royal Rumpus and the March of the Pink Hats.


To learn more about mesothelioma, a cancer caused by asbestos, please click here.

Anxiety & Panic Disorders

From Anxiety Journal—Spring 2015

By Gregory Luce

Living with nerve ends
a little too close  
to the surface:
They vibrate
like steel strings
strummed with a razorblade.

Relief: Tumble a tiny half moon
from a trembling plastic bottle,
roll it between finger
and thumb, take a deep
breath. It leaves
a faint bitter aftertaste
even when swallowed whole,
but soon enough sweet
anodyne flows like
warm water smooth
over softening soil.

Evening of the last day of April, warm breeze, fragrance of lingering blossoms. I make my way gingerly down the sidewalk, taking the damp air in slow, even breaths. When I reach the bus stop I look up.

a flight of swifts just
at dusk their high thin music
a thin reed to grasp

Mother’s Day four years after: Sunny café Sunday, mothers all around. I think of mine, gone now four years. She passed on the 118th anniversary of Walt Whitman’s death.

catbird sings at dusk
broken song flutters into
my memory’s ear




Gregory Luce is a neurodivergent poet living in Arlington, VA, where he writes when not riding his bike, birdwatching, or teaching writing at Writopia Lab. He is the author of four chapbooks: Signs of Small Grace(Pudding House Publications), Drinking Weather (Finishing Line Press), Memory and Desire (Sweatshoppe Publications), and Tile (Finishing Line Press), has published widely in print and online. He is the 2014 Larry Neal Award winner for adult poetry, given by the DC Commission on the Arts and Humanities and serves as Literary Editor of Bourgeon and Board Chair of Day Eight, a DC-based non-profit supporting the arts and artists. He is recently retired from National Geographic, having completed a 32-year career there.


For more information about anxiety disorders, please visit NIMH and also check out the category here on Pre-existing Poems. We’ve only been up for a few days, and about half of all the poems I’ve received have related to anxiety or depression. Statistically, 18% of adults in the US have an anxiety disorder, and it is the most common mental illness in the country. Read more stats about anxiety over at ADAA.

Anxiety & Panic Disorders · Depression · Post-Traumatic Stress

Natural Disaster

By Nicole Kiss

Forming its rotation
In the wasteland
Of my mind
Vacating all that’s mine
Taking all my shrines
To past and future
All that’s left is present time
Wind is shaking
All I know is vascillating
Between the pros and cons of sin
Am I in contradiction
With the things that
I have listened to and know
Cold seeps in cracks of the window
Pain is watching the destruction
And then wishing it was you in vain

Insane, deranged, infected brain
Crazed by any other name
Would still mean I’m the one to blame
For getting in the basket of that old ill-fated
Crane your neck to see my pair of shoes
I’ll perish soon
My parachute is broken
It’s still closed and
So here’s hoping
That the ground will open up its
Mouth of dirt and fungus
Fill it’s lungs,
Stick out its tongue
And I’m the snowflake
I am lowgrade
Not sick enough
To leave yet
But still sick enough
To heave and
Not see heaven yet
But I am buried
By the burden of this debt

It’s internal, see?
Cannot see externally
Apparently, eternally
I’m cursed to be
One can never tell
That toil
Takes a toll
I till the soil
Of my soul
And still find oil
But it does not mix well
With the living water
That allows the seed to grow
Impedes the flow
of Grace
I need to throw
Away the tar
And go back to that place
So far
Retrace the scars
And find out where the tissue
Blocked my heart

This fibrillation is frustrating
Muscle twitching
Cardiac infarc-tion
In my own mind
Cause I am my own
Despised and divided
By my own beholding eye
I cannot stand the constant
Lance of my own sword
Passed on to me from all the words
And circumstances of my birth
And hopes and dreams are only worth
Their weight if second chances
Are a thing
But I’m not sure what I believe
Cause what I see and what I
Hope for
Are two conflicting no-tions
Tectonic plates that shift on and
Off and on without my op-tion
Back and forth and back like an o-cean

Wave goodbye
To good and right
Cause lack of dark
Is lots of
Light is luminescent
But it answers all the questions
You had no intention of ever
Task-ing you with a version of the truth
Pass-ing it on to you
Like a baton
In a race you never chose to run
It’s more like being chased, a gun
Is placed upon the temple of your

Face the music now
There’s no choosing in this town
Take the yoke and pull the plow
They’ll whip the sweat right off your brow
Showing weakness or
Losing pretense
Or using your own common sense
Is grounds for treason
No reaction or the beatings
Will never cease for
No apparent reason
The cost of your existence
Is each second that you breath in and
Out of from under your control
I need to be outside the rule
Of your green thumb nat-ion
Greed Trumps moral pat-ience
Hate from in and out and up and down
And all direc-tions

So I will shun the world
I’d rather give in to the force
Of the mental swarm of bees
That I set forth
My storm was formed
Through conflicting cold and warm
To the skull’s strategic soft spots
Laughter takes a wrong turn
Rug burns
Vision blurs
Fists serve as lessons learned
The sting reminds you not to cause a stir
But now that the punisher
Is safely six feet under
Will you stay so under-
Like it’s God’s plan-ning
For you to keep with-standing
Like those statues with no hands or feet?

Defeat, retreat, or take a seat
There is no option in between
But know a moving target is more likely to be seen
But less ea-sy
To take down
Tornadoes that touchdown
Parade around
They barely touch the ground
They do not stay in place
You see it in the distance
But you cannot get away
The nature of a storm,
Even death and fear and war
Is a cycle that is sure
Placating nomenclature
Is the only offered cure

Hurricanes get human names
So they won’t intimidate us
Or hint to us of fate
How we’re lacking in our faith
Or how we’d rather be sedate
Then feel the pain
That reminds us we’re alive
And helps us stay that way
Now, tell me who’s insane
The ones who feign their strength
Or those admitting they’re afraid



Nicole Kiss is an explorer of art forms. With a BA in Music and Psychology from Greenville College, she utilizes music, poetry, and drawing to express her struggles with depression, anxiety, and lupus. She hopes to someday pursue a degree in counseling to help others and pass on the creative coping she’s picked up along the way.


This poem is intended to be a spoken word/performance piece; at some point in the near future, hopefully we’ll be able to collaborate again with Nicole and post a recording of her performing!

For more information about PTSD, check out NIMH’s rundown.