“Clinic”

by Alissa Quart

1.
When we type “abortion”
autofill writes, I am pregnant.
I am pregnant in
Spanish. I am having
a baby and have no
insurance. I’m scared of having
a baby. What trimester am I
What trimester is abortion illegal?
Google says: I need your love.
I need an abortion.
I am pregnant can I eat shrimp?
Am I having a miscarriage?
I need help paying for abortion.
Abortion clinic violence.
Not ready to have this baby.

2.
God will punish, old ones
say in unison. They sing,
“Genocide.” A man
with a Santa beard and a long gun
enters a clinic in Indiana.
In Mississippi, it’s day-glo
signs, floppy hats, tiny
peachy fetus dolls.
Their lawn chairs
too near Women’s Health,
their flesh sunscreen white.
Metal-detectors-
as-framing-devices.
Surveillance cameras as
glass birds.

In a place like this, in America, a long gun.

Women afraid of dying while
they are trying to find their life.

3.
On a normal day, women aged
23, 19, 41, 35.
Work at Kmart, Home Depot,
at daycares, at the hospitals
at night. Today, they learn
a new vocabulary.
Ultrasound, waiting period,
Trailways, TRAP law,
witnesses. They learn
the way euphemisms mostly tell
the truth. That the polite
word is always “discomfort.”

The door clicks when it locks.
Hungry to talk, no words.

4.
She’s got a cold from
her two-year-old.
The doctor talks through
the procedure. The someone
holding her hand, not
her husband.

From a Baptist town, her mother
full of God. So she lied,
got on the bus here. Drove
for three hours, borrowed
money for the hooker
motel, then the overnight
waiting period. Wondered whether
God cared or was it the care
her mother managed.
One girl was a sturdy teenager,
tall enough to play center.
Signed the parental notification
with a broken ballpoint.
Another, redheaded, the hottest
number at the Bingo Hall in
Shreveport. Grandma drank.
“What about your boyfriend?”
She answers, ”He stopped
talking to me. All he wanted

was the baby.”
With her own body, hurtling.

One boss wouldn’t let
the woman sell car parts
if she was pregnant.
One minister called
the clinic “baby parts.”

One was doing this for
the other baby.
The soldier said she was
doing this so I can fight
for this country.

5.
The ATM spits $500.
She slid inside the office
building, paid money to
a counter lady, was led into
a paneled private
room, Reagan-era
red, with fake curtains,
a bad stage set.
Silk fishtail fern,
mustard satin bedspread.
She was put to sleep
woke up to saltines,
other posh sleepy women
in gowns, a cultic circle.
Her friend called it
“The Anaconda.”
Always the code
words and then the surprise
guiltlessness.

6.
Bed rest with the mysteries. Old blood.
A mandala of succor and suffering.

Dark blood could mean anything.

It gets sloppy when you are trying to find love.

A glass of water, a small
pill. Hard candy, saltines
afterwards. Silk

flower in your hair.

7.
Poems about abortion,
poems about abortion and feelings
of sorrow. Google says: shame or guilt;
Remorse is Forever: Abortion Poem
.
Post Abortion Stress Syndrome
Support
Poems about abortion from
a baby’s point of view
.

8.
Say: No shame.
We can say: The
birth spectrum.

Choices are always field work,
freedom song, elegy,
captivity narrative.

This feeling won’t forget them;
won’t forget you.

Dogfish

by Mary Oliver

Some kind of relaxed and beautiful thing
kept flickering in with the tide
and looking around.
Black as a fisherman’s boot,
with a white belly.

If you asked for a picture I would have to draw a smile
under the perfectly round eyes and above the chin,
which was rough
as a thousand sharpened nails.

And you know
what a smile means,
don’t you?

I wanted
the past to go away, I wanted
to leave it, like another country; I wanted
my life to close, and open
like a hinge, like a wing, like the part of the song
  where it falls
down over the rocks: an explosion, a discovery;
  I wanted
to hurry into the work of my life; I wanted to know,
whoever I was, I was

alive
for a little while.

It was evening, and no longer summer.
Three small fish, I don’t know what they were,
huddled in the highest ripples
as it came swimming in again, effortless, the whole body
one gesture, one black sleeve
that could fit easily around
the bodies of three small fish.

Also I wanted
to be able to love. And we all know
how that one goes,
don’t we?

Slowly

the dogfish tore open the soft basins of water.

You don’t want to hear the story
of my life, and anyway
I don’t want to tell it, I want to listen

to the enormous waterfalls of the sun.

And anyway it’s the same old story–
a few people just trying,
one way or another,
to survive.

Mostly, I want to be kind.
And nobody, of course, is kind,
or mean,
for a simple reason.

And nobody gets out of it, having to
swim through the fires to stay in
this world.

And look! look! look! I think those little fish
better wake up and dash themselves away
from the hopeless future that is
bulging toward them.

And probably,
if they don’t waste time
looking for an easier world,

they can do it.

When Death Comes

by Mary Oliver

When death comes
like the hungry bear in autumn;
when death comes and takes all the bright coins from his purse

to buy me, and snaps the purse shut;
when death comes
like the measle-pox;

when death comes
like an iceberg between the shoulder blades,

I want to step through the door full of curiosity, wondering:
what is it going to be like, that cottage of darkness?

And therefore I look upon everything
as a brotherhood and a sisterhood,
and I look upon time as no more than an idea,
and I consider eternity as another possibility,

and I think of each life as a flower, as common
as a field daisy, and as singular,

and each name a comfortable music in the mouth,
tending, as all music does, toward silence,

and each body a lion of courage, and something
precious to the earth.

When it’s over, I want to say: all my life
I was a bride married to amazement.
I was the bridegroom, taking the world into my arms.

When it’s over, I don’t want to wonder
if I have made my life something particular, and real.
I don’t want to find myself sighing and frightened,
or full of argument.

I don’t want to end up simply having visited this world.

Learn To Be Quiet

by Franz Kafka

You need not do anything.
Remain sitting at your table and listen.
You need not even listen, just wait.
You need not even wait,
just learn to be quiet, still and solitary.
And the world will freely offer itself to you unmasked.
It has no choice, it will roll in ecstasy at your feet.

有 識: Have Knowledge

by Paisley Rekdal

Have you ridden in a streetcar?
Can you describe the taste of bread?
Where are the joss houses located in the city?
Do Jackson Street and Dupont run
in a circle or a line, what is the fruit
your mother ate before she bore you,
how many letters a year
do you receive from your father?
Of which material is your ancestral hall
now built? How many water buffalo
does your uncle own?
Do you love him? Do you hate her?
What kind of bird sang
at your parents’ wedding? What are the birth dates
for each of your cousins: did your brother die
from starvation, work, or murder?
Do you know the price of tea here?
Have you ever touched a stranger’s face
as he slept? Did it snow the year
you first wintered in our desert?
How much weight is
a bucket and a hammer? Which store
is opposite your grandmother’s?
Did you sleep with that man
for money? Did you sleep with that man
for love? Name the color and number
of all your mother’s dresses. Now
your village’s rivers.
What diseases of the heart
do you carry? What country do you see
when you think of your children?
Does your sister ever write?
In which direction does her front door face?
How many steps did you take
when you finally left her?
How far did you walk
before you looked back?

V’ahavta

by Aurora Levins Morales

Say these words when you lie down and when you rise up,
when you go out and when you return. In times of mourning
and in times of joy. Inscribe them on your doorposts,
embroider them on your garments, tattoo them on your shoulders,
teach them to your children, your neighbors, your enemies,
recite them in your sleep, here in the cruel shadow of empire:
Another world is possible.
 
Thus spoke the prophet Roque Dalton:
All together they have more death than we,
but all together, we have more life than they.
There is more bloody death in their hands
than we could ever wield, unless
we lay down our souls to become them,
and then we will lose everything.  So instead,
 
imagine winning.  This is your sacred task.
This is your power. Imagine
every detail of winning, the exact smell of the summer streets
in which no one has been shot, the muscles you have never
unclenched from worry, gone soft as newborn skin,
the sparkling taste of food when we know
that no one on earth is hungry, that the beggars are fed,
that the old man under the bridge and the woman
wrapping herself in thin sheets in the back seat of a car,
and the children who suck on stones,
nest under a flock of roofs that keep multiplying their shelter.
Lean with all your being towards that day
when the poor of the world shake down a rain of good fortune
out of the heavy clouds, and justice rolls down like waters.
 
Defend the world in which we win as if it were your child.
It is your child.
Defend it as if it were your lover.
It is your lover.
 
When you inhale and when you exhale
breathe the possibility of another world
into the 37.2 trillion cells of your body
until it shines with hope.
Then imagine more.  
 
Imagine rape is unimaginable. Imagine war is a scarcely credible rumor
That the crimes of our age, the grotesque inhumanities of greed,
the sheer and astounding shamelessness of it, the vast fortunes
made by stealing lives, the horrible normalcy it came to have,
is unimaginable to our heirs, the generations of the free.
 
Don’t waver. Don’t let despair sink its sharp teeth
Into the throat with which you sing.  Escalate your dreams.
Make them burn so fiercely that you can follow them down
any dark alleyway of history and not lose your way.
Make them burn clear as a starry drinking gourd
Over the grim fog of exhaustion, and keep walking.
 
Hold hands. Share water. Keep imagining.
So that we, and the children of our children’s children
may live

Instructions on Not Giving Up

Ada Limón

More than the fuchsia funnels breaking out
of the crabapple tree, more than the neighbor’s
almost obscene display of cherry limbs shoving
their cotton candy-colored blossoms to the slate
sky of Spring rains, it’s the greening of the trees
that really gets to me. When all the shock of white
and taffy, the world’s baubles and trinkets, leave
the pavement strewn with the confetti of aftermath,
the leaves come. Patient, plodding, a green skin
growing over whatever winter did to us, a return
to the strange idea of continuous living despite
the mess of us, the hurt, the empty. Fine then,
I’ll take it, the tree seems to say, a new slick leaf
unfurling like a fist to an open palm, I’ll take it all.

Ghazal !يا لطيف (Ya Lateef!)

by Marilyn Hacker

A lot more malaise and a little more grief every day,
aware that all seasons, the stormy, the sunlit, are brief every day. 

I don’t know the name of the hundredth drowned child, just the names
of the oligarchs trampling the green, eating beef every day,

while luminous creatures flick, stymied, above and around
the plastic detritus that’s piling up over the reef every day.

A tiny white cup of black coffee in afternoon shade,
while an oud or a sax plays brings breath and relief every day. 

Another beginning, no useful conclusion in sight‚—
another first draft that I tear out and add to the sheaf every day. 

One name, three-in-one, ninety-nine, or a matrix of tales 
that are one story only, well-springs of belief every day.

But I wake before dawn to read news that arrived overnight
on a minuscule screen , and exclaim  يا لطيف every day.

Red Sea: April 2002

by Aurora Levins Morales

This Passover, who reclines?
Only the dead, their cupped hands filling slowly
with the red wine of war.  We are not free.

The blood on the doorposts does not protect anyone.
They say that other country over there
dim blue in the twilight
farther than the orange stars exploding over our roofs
is called peace.

The bread of affliction snaps in our hands like bones,
is dust in our mouths. This bitterness brings tears to our eyes.
The figs and apples are sour.  We have many more
than four questions.  We dip and dip,
salt stinging our fingers.  
Unbearable griefs braided into a rope so tight
we can hardly breathe,
Whether we bless or curse,
this is captivity.
We would cross the water if we knew how.
Everyone blames everyone else for barring the way.

Listen, they say there is honey swelling in golden combs, over there,
dates as sweet and brown as lovers’ cheekbones,
bread as fragrant as rest,
but the turbulent water will not part for us.
We’ve lost the trick of it.

Back then, one man’s faith opened the way.
He stepped in, we were released, our enemies drowned.

This time we’re tied at the ankles.
We cannot cross until we carry each other,
all of us refugees, all of us prophets.
No more taking turns on history’s wheel,
trying to collect old debts no-one can pay.
The sea will not open that way. 

This time that country
is what we promise each other,
our rage pressed cheek to cheek
until tears flood the space between,
until there are no enemies left,
because this time no one will be left to drown
and all of us must be chosen. 
This time it’s all of us or none. 

Words for Departure

by Louise Bogan

Nothing was remembered, nothing forgotten.
When we awoke, wagons were passing on the warm summer   
          pavements,
The window-sills were wet from rain in the night,
Birds scattered and settled over chimneypots
As among grotesque trees.

Nothing was accepted, nothing looked beyond.
Slight-voiced bells separated hour from hour,
The afternoon sifted coolness
And people drew together in streets becoming deserted.
There was a moon, and light in a shop-front,
And dusk falling like precipitous water.

Hand clasped hand
Forehead still bowed to forehead—
Nothing was lost, nothing possessed
There was no gift nor denial.

2.
I have remembered you.
You were not the town visited once,
Nor the road falling behind running feet.

You were as awkward as flesh
And lighter than frost or ashes.

You were the rind,
And the white-juiced apple,
The song, and the words waiting for music.

3.
You have learned the beginning;
Go from mine to the other.

Be together; eat, dance, despair,
Sleep, be threatened, endure.
You will know the way of that.

But at the end, be insolent;
Be absurd—strike the thing short off;
Be mad—only do not let talk
Wear the bloom from silence.

And go away without fire or lantern
Let there be some uncertainty about your departure.