It’s just another day in a state-sponsored democracy,

the elections being held   in front of a firing squad,
the soldiers assuring you

their rifles’ chambers are mostly empty.   
You’ve got several candidates to choose from,   but only one

is the right one:   The government’s pick is rumored
to be capable of anything,   

though he looks like the definition of dull.
Back home, your family’s   tied up in the living room,

yet you’ve been asked   to simply vote your conscience.
The other candidates

air low-budget commercials
on cable-access TV in the wee morning hours:   This is to prove

the electoral process is fair.   Of course, it is.
Still, these other candidates

have been missing for weeks,
plucked off the campaign trail   like rotten fruit

by masked assailants   carrying machetes & smart-phones.
The government’s official party

outlaws the expression “dissent”
& imprisons those associated with it.   Right before voting,

you hesitate,   imagining your act of defiance
might alter the status quo

& send shockwaves through
your nation’s habit of inaction.   In your living room,

a time-bomb will detonate   if you fill in the name
of any other candidate.

Your decision’s clear,
made years before   you ever realized you could vote.

— Jonathan Greenhause

A four-time nominee for the Pushcart Prize, Jonathan Greenhause was the
winner of the 2015 Editor’s Choice Poetry Award from Kind of a Hurricane Press,
a finalist for this year’s Green Mountains Review Book Prize, a finalist for
Soundings East’s 2016 Claire Keyes Award in Poetry, and a finalist for the 2016
Iowa Review Poetry Award. His poetry has recently appeared or is forthcoming
in Folio, Mantis, RHINO, Southword Journal, and Thin Air, among others.
SECOND
PLACE
GeminiMAGAZINE
2016
POETRY
OPEN
$100 PRIZE