September, That Year
The calm of fixing,
with each layer of glue,
petal to page. One day to fix the final dead petal,
hold every bud
beneath the mucilage.
It happened like machinery: Planned
Parenthood fed me a pill
like a quarter
and a gumball bled
from between my legs.
by their stems
your flowers until junked
bunches of ragweed and parched petals
to the floor.
A receptionist handed me the number to schedule
a follow-up and possible
to occur in no more than twenty days’ but
no less than two weeks’ time.
Strapped in a cardboard box,
eighteen days after
the abortion I made you fly to face,
of sunflowers, tiger lilies, ragweed
crowded the stoop.
My maintenance at the clinic handled,
I called to thank you for the follow-up
It’s for our anniversary, you said.
But how’d that go, anyway?
oh, what shall I say, how is the truth to be said?
– Gwendolyn Brooks
1 – in the jail
Into the morning sky, columns of condensate
and paper lint fly from the mill.
We read Gwendolyn’s “the mother,”
three women incarcerated in the county
jail that shares the road with the mill
huddled around the plastic table,
golf pencils lying in wait.
Abortion is never love, said D
who didn’t get to see her kids this week
because, I can’t remember, another
horrible thing, and M exhaled,
My boyfriend thought I was lying
when I told him I was pregnant
and needed, you know, some money.
For an abortion.
His money—but was it his?
She went to the clinic alone.
She alone refuses to write.
The pencils, she says, pointing
the butt end of hers at me, at J.
We have no response.
2 – at the poetry festival
The tent was crowded, enormous,
quiet, enchanted. It was cold—
J and I didn’t care.
Most of you know how many children
I’ve had, but what you don’t know
is how many abortions.
We looked at each other. How
did Lucille say that? Not proclamation
or confession. Just a sentence.
How many of us need to know—
and she gave it to us, all of us
who counted her our mother.
She read “the mother.” And that
is how the truth is to be said:
with a mother’s tongue.
Across the sky driving home,
Venus on the horizon—no,
just a plane, flashing
through the mill clouds
and flying west,