Incantations: The SCOTUS Decision in Trump v. Hawaii :: 585 U.S. ___ (2018)

14 writers cast spells in response to the SCOTUS and POTUS

Incantations: The SCOTUS Decision in Trump v. Hawaii


Incantations: The SCOTUS Decision in Trump v. Hawaii :: 585 U.S. ___ (2018)

On June 26, 2018, the US Supreme Court performed a cheap magic trick in Trump v. Hawaii—with one hand, it upheld Trump’s “Muslim travel ban,” and with the other, overruled Korematsu v. United States (1944), which justified internment of Japanese Americans. At the same time, the White House has given Immigration and Customs Enforcement full permission to violently attack and incarcerate (non-white) non-citizens, children, and families.

In her dissent in Trump v. Hawaii, Justice Sotomayor, with Justice Ginsburg, uses words like masquerade, facade, and repackaging to describe this sleight-of-hand. In a sense, they are saying we are all being hoodwinked by professional illusionists. When we look at US history, perhaps this has been the case for centuries.

In Japanese, one of the words for magic is mahou, which is composed of two characters, 魔 (ma) and 法 (hou). By itself, ma means witch, demon, evil spirit. Hou means method, law, rule, principle, model, system. This seems an apt way to view our situation in the US. Magic is crucial to the state system. It systematically summons things that do not exist—an “illegal alien” is a legal category invented to serve white supremacy, and until the early 20th century, the physical “border” was porous and unguarded. The equation of Muslim = terrorist is another long-lived, institutionalized fantasy. But they are summoned and violently enforced—they have been for a long time—and so they do exist.

We live in a legal regime akin to a witch-demon-evil spirit system, currently being used to weave a fascism that is quickly moving from proto to actual. In the face of this, I put out a call for contributions of magic spells in response to SCOTUS’ Trump v. Hawaii decision and the incarceration of children and families in ICE concentration camps.

In addition to protesting, building complex communities of resistance and vision, and self-care practices, writers also have language, one of the original magicks. We too can summon our own enchantments, incantations, protections, charms, curses, hexes, blessings, auguries, banishments, and more. Through these spells, we 14 writers exercise and focus our imaginations, visions, and energies.

~ Kenji C. Liu

in response to the Muslim Ban

how do you ban soul
spring, stars,
a butterfly's path
dense ocean basin currents
guiding songs of whales
orbit of moon?

First published in Origins Journal

An Augury of Coram Nobis

for every family stripped of the right to  
their dignity
your dreams will be hexed with the stench of
Korematsu's first stall in Tanforan

for every child you dismantle from
their foundation
you shall swallow a pint of sand
from Yasui's Magic Valley

for every ban on humanity
you must take in three sips from
Hirabayashi's Tincture for Radical Compassion

for every country, of family, of child, in ban, outbound
your fate, sealed, your ego, overturned
your tether to ungood, for good


Hechizo Para Congelar
for Mamá Merida who taught us the power of spells

1. Names
2. Pencil
3. Paper Bag
4. Freezer

Pencil names onto
pieces of brown
paper bag.

Let’s say:

donald john trump
kirstjen michele nielson
jefferson beauregard sessions III
sarah elizabeth huckabee sanders
immigrations and customs enforcement

Fold. Fold again.
Set intention. Speak:
que no hagan más

daño. Bury
tiny pieces in
freezer corner.

Wait for papers
to chill. Watch
as each person

cold as

ICE, abolished.





Which came first: the law or the violence? Which came first: the law or the violence? Which came first: the law or the violence? Which came first: the law or the violence? Which came first: the law or the violence?

They law our lands, they mark our bones, cut our graves and parade our dead in the streets of their naming. What the law does not name: the ashes, the fire, the looters, the killers, the ashes. The paper, the gun, the men who search for names caught by night, who knock, flash their lights inside our eyes, the mark, its tearing apart. They bring to desert the fences, pull stones from beneath our homes. And the bones we find remain scattered at the bottom. Even as the mask unveils the eye, the sight, even as it falls upon the body, solidified. Law: the brick, the chain, the tower, the fence, the paper, the gun, the paper, the gun, the baton dropped, musical grave, the beating heart. 1882, 1907, 1929. 1986, 1996, 2005. Progress, the lie of the first world, as if anyone were welcome. The metropole swallows the colony whole, deadened in the throat of what cannot speak. Even our dead are deployed, and we are made to stand and salute, haunting embassy stationed at the border.

Which came first: the violence or the law? Which came first: the violence or the law? Which came first: the violence or the law? Which came first: the violence or the law? Which came first: the violence or the law?

Take back the ancestors. Release Korematsu. Heart as connective tissue. Ladder sung across distance. Body severed from optic. Home: the last brick slipped from the wall, the knife jammed deep in the artery of the banks of blood they keep from us. Sink in our teeth, bare fangs against papery flesh. What is law but violence. Against the threat of our existence. Curse the state, the future it projects without us. Having taken what is possible to take, having made what is possible to make. Take down the tower, its bone-built core. Return to us our dead. This is not a metaphor.

Which came first: the law or the violence? Which came first: the law or the violence? Which came first: the law or the violence? Which came first: the law or the violence? Which came first: the law or the violence?


Incantation for Obstacle

~ ELAINE WANG, "Incantation for Obstacle"

~ ELAINE WANG , "Incantation for Obstacle"


The Mathematics of Prayer

Prayers calling for protection from a threat
tend to be subtractive.
They ask to keep danger away—
persecution, violence, or the perceived threat of violence.
They also force the one making the request
to give up something in return:
a home,
a family,
a way of life,
and sometimes a willingness to see others as human.

In contrast, prayers calling for peace
tend to be additive.
They ask to draw others closer,
knowing that communities are stronger than individuals.
They also invite the one making the request
to grow larger in order to make room for:
the patience,
the compassion,
the love,
and the space it takes to hold the hurts of others.

Whether associated with a giving or a taking,
a prayer can’t be answered without a sacrifice.


~ VANESSA ANGÉLICA VILLARREAL, "Destierro, Counterspell: A Bind of Grasses"

~ VANESSA ANGÉLICA VILLARREAL, "Destierro, Counterspell: A Bind of Grasses"


—poem to reach into the same food and share with many hands.

A border will only persist as bench to rest at
on a stroll. Call it respite. And serve refreshments.
At every station, cup to cup, a pouring
back and forth: those whose names traverse
in the form of libations: welcome.
Bereft of any detention centre,
bereft of separation. Rivers
walk back towards
faith in



Supreme the ache of a mother, smell of her child’s hair lingering inside her lungs.

Courteous is the mouth stunned to silence, unable to rage in the court of history. Who will make sense out of these prayers etched on driftwood?

Often, I wake with a jolt as if pulled out of the depths of my slumber from some far away remembrance. Leave the flowers behind. Pluck the petals from my eyes.

The sun will continue to rise and fall on this country, and you will feel its absence and presence.

United in peril, one door opens while another closes.

State your name, date of birth, country of origin. Your objective and destination. Your next of kin, your misgivings, your losses. Your undoing and ruin. Your forgetting.


Another Spell for Hole

~ CHING-IN CHEN, "Another Spell for Hole"

~ CHING-IN CHEN, "Another Spell for Hole"


may they remember.

may they mine their memory for origin. the dark sea they imploded. the bacterial explosion. the fish center. the teeth kicking : knuckles dragging the ground. may they wake from it. may they sweat out primordial. ooze the mitochondrial cave they run from. may they. know the knot gorilla worry, fathom night terror at the chimp arms. may they, may they. remember the routine disaster of their evolve. their uncoddled rise of bone. may they, may they. relieve themselves their fantasy rib. may they remember their furry, black holes. may they flash to the deep fret nervosa of claws over stone. of being lost from the pack. haunted orangutan, run to their oblivion. land ape ninny, afraid of the sea. anxious at the creation of untail. may they, may they. under hypnotic and charm. remember this running ever since; the eventual death of their hue. may they wake up in a craving. may they flare out their gills. may they runagate, remember. the reflection quadruped. may they may they. unfear their own womb, their dark twin mirroring, their gnarled émigré foot. may they, may they and stumble up upward. unchain the gout limp. toddle out of evolution’s fist. drown in a brown sand, quick. open their monkey eyes.


Warding Spell Against Trump v. Hawaii :: 585 U.S. ___ (2018)

Materials needed:

Pure salt
Fresh pine cones, bark, and needles
Fennel stalk
Red wine
Paper and pencil

1. At first light, journey. Collect cones, bark, and needles from single pine. Then, in circle of salt, distribute needles and bark equally between four directions.

Note: Korematsu 是松 "this pine tree," 是 "this" = ancient compound of 早 "early" (sun + first) + 止 (orig.) "foot" or 正 "upright" (a nail + foot) = (orig.) "upright sun," but now = "this" or "this be right or correct," and 松 "pine tree" composed of 木 "tree" + 公 "public" (opposite + private) or possibly 公 "public" (to distribute + object) = (orig.) "equal communal division of resources."

2. In circle at noon, pour red wine into bowl. In mortar, crush cones to dust. Stir into wine with fennel stalk. Do not drink.

Note: Trump, unexplained variant of triumph, Latin triumphus = hymn in honor of Bacchus, Greek Dionysus, god of wine and ritual madness—the god who comes from outside = a cult foreign god from Asia or Ethiopia—holds a phallic thyrsus = staff of fennel and tipped with a pine cone = also a weapon.

3. Throughout afternoon, pencil and paper. Write rune ᛋ (Sowilō) 17 million times, then cross each out with rune ᛁ (Isaz). As sun sets, burn all. Stir ashes into wine with fennel stalk. Do not drink.

Note: Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) = ice = Anglo-Saxon rune = īs = Proto-Germanic rune = Isaz, runic alphabet crucial in 19th-20th century German occultism, Anglo-Saxon rune Sigel or Proto-Germanic rune Sowilō = sun, incorporated into Nazi SS insignia by Reichsführer Himmler, architect of mass genocide, kidnapped “racially valuable” children, deported residents of annexed territories as slave labor.

4. As sun rises again, sprinkle contents of bowl around pine tree while shouting 585 times: SERVE THE PEOPLE SERVE THE PEOPLE SHINE SHINE SHINE. Let earth drink.

Note: Roberts = derived from Germanic hrod and beraht = bright renown, and proto-Germanic hropiz and berhtaz, and proto-Indo-European kreH to shout and berHg to shine, British surname reflecting servile status, servant or son of.

5. Keep as life raft: salt circle. And fennel stalk, to digest the coming years.



Against barbed wire.
Against barrack & cage.

Against the carceral state,
        reproduction of internment.

Against the force of the hill.

Bless summer skin ––
bless summer tongues ––

Bless nail polish:
coral and seafoam––

Bless the children, crossing,
seeking sanctuary.

Bring them to their families,
bring them home.


About the Writers

Hari Alluri is most recently the author of The Flayed City (Kaya). A co-founding editor at Locked Horn Press who is ever grateful for his communities, he immigrated to Vancouver, unceded Coast Salish territories, at age 12, and recently returned there from San Diego, Kumeyaay land.

Josmara Alvarado and Li Yun Alvarado are cousins and comadres who visit la familia in Salinas, PR as often they can. Josmara is an herbalist, Reiki practitioner, tarot reader, artisan, and educator; you can follow her on Instagram: @jmara_b3l3n. Li Yun is the author of Words or Water and Nuyorico, CA; you can learn more about her work and efforts on behalf of Puerto Rico at www.liyunalvarado.com

Cathy Linh Che is the author of the poetry collection Split (Alice James Books), winner of the Kundiman Poetry Prize, the Norma Farber First Book Award from the Poetry Society of America, and the Best Poetry Book Award from the Association of Asian American Studies. She is a founding editor of the journal Paperbag and the Executive Director at Kundiman, a national nonprofit that nurtures generations of writers and readers of Asian American literature.

Ching-In Chen is author of The Heart’s Traffic and recombinant as well as co-editor of The Revolution Starts at Home: Confronting Intimate Violence Within Activist Communities and Here is a Pen: an Anthology of West Coast Kundiman Poets. They have received fellowships from Kundiman, Lambda, Watering Hole, Callaloo, Can Serrat and Imagining America and are a part of Macondo and Voices of Our Nations Arts Foundation writing communities. They are a poetry editor for the Texas Review and can be found online at www.chinginchen.com

Kazumi Chin’s first poetry collection, Having a Coke with Godzilla, was published in 2017 by Sibling Rivalry Press. Their most recent work can be found in Underblong, AAWW's The Margins, and in AALR’s Book of Curses. They are the co-organizer and host of Kearny Street Workshop’s key reading series and currently a PhD candidate in Cultural Studies at UC Davis.

francine j. harris is the author of play dead and allegiance. She was a 2015 National Endowment for the Arts fellow, is a Cave Canem poet, and will be the 2018/2019 Rona Jaffe Fellow at the Cullman Center at the New York Public Library..

traci kato-kiriyama is a writer/actor and one half of the award-winning PULLproject Ensemble; director/co-founder of Tuesday Night Project - presenter of the Tuesday Night Cafe series (currently the longest-running Asian American-produced mic series in the country); and Writ Large Press author of a new book still in the birthing process. She has been presented as a performer, poet, theatre deviser, guest lecturer, speaker, facilitator, emcee, and Artist-in-Residence at innumerable venues from Los Angeles, San Francisco, Washington and Hawai'i to Philadelphia, Florida, New York and Toronto.

Kenji C. Liu (劉謙司) is author of Monsters I Have Been, forthcoming from Alice James Books (2019), Map of an Onion, national winner of the 2015 Hillary Gravendyk Poetry Prize, and the chapbook Craters: A Field Guide (2017). His writing appears in numerous journals and anthologies. A Kundiman fellow and an alumnus of VONA/Voices, the Djerassi Resident Artist Program, and the Community of Writers, he lives in Los Angeles. Follow him on Instagram: @monstersihavebeen

Sham-e-Ali Nayeem is a Philadelphia-based poet and visual artist. She is currently working on her forthcoming book of poetry, City of Pearls (UpSet Press, 2018).

Tiana Nobile lives in New Orleans, Louisiana. She is a recipient of a 2017 Rona Jaffe Foundation Writer's Award, the Lucy Grealy Prize for Poetry from Sarah Lawrence College, and a fellowship from Kundiman. A Pushcart Prize nominee, Tiana is the author of the chapbook, The Spirit of the Staircase. tiananobile.com

Tracy Held Potter is an award-winning playwright and screenwriter with a BS in Conservation and Resource Studies from UC Berkeley and an MFA in Dramatic Writing from Carnegie Mellon University. She is a member of the Dramatists Guild and the Writers Guild of America and is represented by Zana Scott at The Wayne Agency. tracyheldpotter.com

신 선 영 Sun Yung Shin is an immigrant poet and editor in Minneapolis, author or editor of six books, most recently of Unbearable Splendor (Coffee House Press). With poet Su Hwang she co-directs Poetry Asylum, an organization that operates from the interdependent commitments that no one is illegal, all language is political, and poetry is a human right.

Vanessa Angélica Villarreal was born in the Rio Grande Valley borderlands to formerly undocumented Mexican immigrants. She is the author of the collection Beast Meridian (Noemi Press, Akrilica Series, 2017), winner of the John A. Robertson Award for Best First Book of Poetry from the Texas Institute of Letters, and featured on The Los Angeles Times, NBC News, BOMB, Literary Hub, Bustle, and Entropy. She is currently pursuing her doctorate at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles, where she is raising her son with the help of a loyal dog.

Elaine Wang has been published in Memorious, Sunstar, Spires, cahoodaloodaling, Analecta, Hot House, Zero Ducats, Lantern Review, FreezeRay, and Front Porch. Recently, she was part of 92y’s #wordswelivein project. She is a Kundiman Fellow and 2014 and 2017 Pushcart Prize Nominee. She currently lives with a Cat God disguised as a large orange Maine Coon named Hebby.