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 bound beneath the

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 drop 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.

Questions for the Mothers

Sarah B. Boyle

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


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, away 

But how’d that go, anyway?

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.