Freedom of Speech

Although I don’t agree with what you say, 
I will defend to the death your right to say it.
misattributed to Voltaire

Unless it’s yelling “fire” in a theater.
Or anything at KKK rallies.
And definitely no radio broadcasts
exhorting us to slaughter all the Houthi.

Nor will I defend the rights
of Nigerian widows to fleece
the elderly. Also, this should
by no means be construed to mean

that barking dogs at 4 am
deserve any protection.
Nor does that young woman talking
so loud on her cell phone, at the next table.

Indeed, Freedom of Speech
no longer looks like the hot
number I saw on cable news.
Is it only temporary, this remorse?

Or is it the chance that someday,
someone will pant, sword bloodied,
over piles of corpses, salute the balcony,
and we’ll wish we thought this through

as the hoax, hate-speech, and lie
wave their handkerchiefs
from the presidential seat
and prepare to go?

About the contributor: Charles Joseph Albert lives in San Jose, California with his wife and three children, where he works as a metallurgist and writes poetry and fiction on the trolley to and fro. His work has appeared recently in Amsterdam Quarterly, Collective Unrest, First Lit Review, The Magnolia Review and The Literary Nest.


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