Sarah B. Boyle

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.


I hang

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

cleaning out—this

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,

a shock

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?

Question for the Mothers

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

and J

and me,

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.

No erasers.

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,


Sarah B. Boyle is a poet, activist, mother, and high school teacher. Her poems have appeared in Menacing Hedge, Storyscape, and elsewhere. She recently curated a series of essays on the poetics Alt Lit and rape culture for Delirious Hem. She has an MFA from Sarah Lawrence College.

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