This issue is edited by Aimée Baker, Emma Bolden,& Dustin Brookshire.
LW #8 - Protest Issue, Part 1: 11/7/22
Ballade of the Insurrectionists
The traitor has the best patriot costume.
Japanese proverb, translated by W. S. Merwin
I have seen the morons of my generation
diapered in the Gadsen flag,
chicken daddy camo boys hunkered down
in mommy’s man cave bunker,
Incel central, their culture wars gone underground.
They think they’re brave! Undercover, but easy to spot
stampeding to Stop the Steal. Let’s face it,
the traitor has the best patriot costume
I spy zip ties! A velcro vest, each pocket
tailored to fit hand grenades and pencil-dick
cartridges stockpiled to infinity. Molon Labe
their battlecry. They are serious. They took a bus.
They think they’re freedom riders standing
for their rights. Is this a history lesson?
Did I doze off? Because all I’ve learned
is that traitors have the best patriot costumes.
Most were camo clowns, but some
were militia with training and they marched
through the gates in formation. Where’s backup?
Where’s Pence? What makes this a few bad apples
and not a coup? If not for selfies and live streams
we wouldn’t have any names. I’ll repeat it
for those in the back like the lady I am:
traitors have the best patriot costumes,
and I’m pissed enough to pledge my bad aim
to the cause. I’d rather pour libations,
act a fool, but today I empty my clip
at target practice--traitors in patriot costumes.
Am I the last one to notice that horror
movies and evangelicals have the same rules?
Daylight is a designated safety zone
unless you’re having sex in the woods.
Evil’s first contact is a disembodied voice
or a mirror twin snarling out of sync with your face.
On screen I’d have been the friend--pretty face,
but fat enough to be the first one killed. A typical horror
trope--brief chase, hand muffling my voice,
phallic blade from behind. Those are the rules--
the final girl runs braless through the woods,
her band nerd sidekick catapulted from the friend zone
to a wet-tee wonderland, to the prom date zone.
The killer watches--you just know it’s his face
camouflaged in deceptively sun-dappled woods.
Slasher flicks are as much comedy as horror--
Aesop teenagers won’t listen or follow rules
and when the wolf comes no one hears their voices.
Reality shocks most of all--they ignore our voices,
talk over us and keep the fetish cam zoned
in with a steady hand. According to the rules,
we brought this on ourselves with painted faces.
The Bible must say that sluts deserve body horror,
that if you don’t want to turn up dead in the woods
don’t let yourself get drugged in witchy woods.
Avoid dreamscapes with victim-blaming voice-
overs, fight harder with your thighs pried apart in horror.
They want us shackled in the forced breeder-zone,
zombie mommies with burlap sacks on our faces.
They get hard while we squirm against these rules.
They gloat. Rejoice. Spit their post-Roe rules
in our faces. I think of witches bound on wooden
pyres, wonder if I’d be able to steady my face
while the watchers taunted in a single voice.
Out of body, raging in the handmaid zone,
I feel flesh drip from me with horror.
In this American horror story, I run
for the woods, safer among wolves than voices
screeching psycho rules in my face.
Zen as Fuck
F-bombs calm me down. My zen
is stitching curse words, as thrilling as
raiding the liquor cabinet used to be. Fuck
cross stitched pumpkins in July and fuck
finishing what I start. Back-stitched zen
spreads like a spider’s lace, as badass as
ripped fishnets at the roller derby. As
long as I have needle and floss the world can fuck
off. (Not everyone, just rich assholes.) Zen
stitches slow me down. I’m focused, zen as fuck.
Alison Pelegrin (she/her) is the author of four poetry collections, most recently Our Lady of Bewilderment with LSU Press. She is the recipient of fellowships from the NEA and the Louisiana Division of the Arts.
All unwanted children should be allowed to live at the Supreme Court building…
-Howard Stern, June 24, 2022
Let Samuel Alito burp and feed them.
Let Clarence Thomas roll on the floor
with a rattle and blocks. Let Neil Gorsuch
change their diapers. Let Brett Kavanaugh
worry about each one getting shot
as he drops them off at the school bus stop.
Let Amy Coney Barrett start their college funds.
Let the five justices tear out their hair
as each child throws a tantrum. Let them lose sleep
when the kids go through puberty
screaming I hate you! I never asked to be born!
Poem In Which I Invite Melodrama
I’m shoveling toxic waste with other post-menopausal women.
(Yes, once upon a time I read The Handmaid’s Tale and watched
the Hulu series too. In fact, the crew was filming the last two episodes
of its fifth season when Roe v. Wade was overturned.)
But then there was no more cable, only state TV. I was caught
smuggling teas that would bring on periods—even if/especially if
my young friends thought they were pregnant. I had a safe
full of condoms and expired birth control pills and used
my online minister credentials to perform marriages for lesbians
and gay men. All my money would have been transferred
to my husband’s or father’s name, but since I am not married
and my father has passed, my accounts disappeared
into a government fund. I am completely “unloved”
according to the state. I lost my teaching job when colleges closed
themselves to women. All my poetry books—the ones I wrote,
the ones I read—have been burned. The resistance we put up
didn’t work. All the sisterhood I so believed in fell apart.
The guards put a hood over my head when they transported me
with all the other useless old ladies. We try to help each other
with our arthritis, our carpal tunnel, our sciatic backs,
but all our meds have been confiscated and we are forbidden
to talk. Just a kind smile between us is cause for a whack
from men so young they could be our grandsons. Sometimes
they rape us for laughs. Sometimes they tell us how ugly we are.
We sleep on the ground, our ankles chained to each other
though there is nowhere to escape in this version of America.
Poem In Which I Banish Sorrow
I am alive, walking, sun freckling my nose,
no worry yet of my annual mole check.
I have my mother in my pocket—her face
on the prayer card we had printed for her wake.
I ate oatmeal with maple syrup for breakfast
so how can the front page news hurt me?
I lift my zippered wrist pouch where I keep
my keys safe. I am Wonder Woman
using her “bracelets of submission”
to deflect the terror of the world.
I know it’s a long fight—this untangling
from male power. I am collecting information
about at-home abortions. I am writing down
everything I know about joy as a guide
future generations—Apples, banana bikes,
cubbyholes, Dunkin Donuts, Evergreens…
June 24, 2022
To calm myself I walk into the sea—that womb
which is full of seagrass. I’ve just listened to Biden’s
tepid, unconvincing speech. The sea is calm—
or so I thought, the lifeguard hut’s flag green.
Lifeguard, the one who guards life, I muse
when a rogue wave rises out of nowhere
and I’m under, saltwater/saline—no longer
allowed—flushing through my nose, my mouth.
A child is holding the string of a kite
shaped like a duck. The yellow plastic swoops
toward her mother who is on the phone, crying.
Look mom, says the child and the mother gives
a sniffly thumbs up. I think, Ducklings follow
the first moving object they see after hatching.
What will become of this little girl and her
freedom? Or this duckling in the wind?
An astrologer once told me
I should get a viral plant
and watch it grow in the corner
of my computer screen
so that I’d have more sense
of time passing, more sense
of the earth since I am an air sign
and often need some grounding.
She said Never get close to a Pisces
or you’ll drown. Clarence Thomas’s
birthday was yesterday, a Cancer,
another water sign.
Free, right? Free Willy (the movie), willy-nilly freedoms,
“Born Free” (a song from the movie of the same name),
“Born to be Wild” (Steppenwolf). “Be there. Will be wild!” (Trump)
Wild child, love child, foster child. Foster good will,
the will of the people, people who bleed. Bleeding liberals,
liberal arts degrees, the third degree, six degrees of separation.
Separation at the border, borderline personality,
disordered personality, disorderly conduct,
conduct unbecoming to a president. Becoming (Michelle Obama),
coming clean, cleaning up the crime scene, love scenes,
“All You Need is Love” (The Beatles).
Needy mouths to feed, the news feed, the news room.
A Room of One’s Own (Virginia Woolf), a womb of one’s own,
a tomb of one’s own, a tomb of the unknown.
Roe v. Wade Haiku (June 24, 2022)
wade in the water
row, row, row your boat gently
to another state
Denise Duhamel’s (she/her) most recent books of poetry are Second Story (Pittsburgh, 2021) and Scald (2017). Blowout (2013) was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award. A recipient of fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation and the National Endowment for the Arts, she teaches at Florida International University in Miami.
Support Planned Parenthood.
LW #8 - Protest Issue, Part 2: 11/15/22
Batman & Karen
“In abortion debate, echoes of another battle: Reproductive rights for Black women.”
Akilah Johnson, Washington Post, June 10, 2022
I’ve seen Batman and Karen march to protect fetuses
with rifles cocked when brown bodies marched
to protect their babies.
Karen called the cops on
Black barbecues to
And white friends & relatives spoke
what they really think your of skin culture
since their president did.
Dark knights in dark times
the Black man for running.
Grabbing pussies was condoned as long
as taxes remained low.
And more strange fruit swung.
Sandra Bland mysteriously died
in police custody because
she got mouthy.
And “Fuck Christmas” because
The First Lady said so.
And arrest the Black Hispanic journalist reporting
live on CNN to send a message to fox-
I’d be lying if I said
I didn’t partake.
Slicing my piece of the blood, white, & blue cake.
that got in the way
in the name of progress
when it took up space
to my discomfort,
And sipped tea dumped centuries ago
in the sea where my ancestors were aborted
sleeping like a baby.
Zorina Exie Frey (she/her) is an essayist, screenwriter, spoken word poet, content writer and digital designer. She is an English Instructor at Converse University and a writing instructor for Writing Class Radio. She’s the Editor-in-Chief for 45 Magazine Journal and Poetry Editor for South 85 Journal.
Support Planned Parenthood.
On Being Jewish in Post-Roe America
Maternal mortality rises
over the conclave like a chimney
of white smoke. They have chosen
new keepers of keys,
crowned Jephthah our patron
saint (wherefore they will dry
California and drain the Colorado,
in observance of the tekufah).
No more shall Caesar tread
upon the serpent with his Marian
heel, violate the ancient
prerogative of the church
to leave a withered hand
unhealed on the Sabbath.
The law, by satisfied inaction
makes forbidden burnings blameless.
Let the rabbis cry in the streets,
like the prophets, what God commands—
that the laws that order creation
should be unknit in the wombs of the merciful
if it will save a life,
for one is the whole world.
They will quote Jeremiah
and David as we’re jailed and numbered.
Men, born of women,
will watch women die
while they paint us in the
blood of Christian children—
claim the adoption of Abraham
and Sarah, name their daughters
Rachel and Leah, and call us
killers. As though everything
wills the destruction of what created it;
as though everything longs
to be unborn.
Reyzl Grace (she/her) is a transfeminine Ashkenazi writer and librarian with recent or forthcoming acts of literary defiance in So to Speak, the gamut mag, Jupiter Review, and An Áitiúil. Unable to protest fast enough for events on her own, she has started translating classic Yiddish-speaking women revolutionaries like Khane Levin, Dine Libkes, and Hinde Roytblat. Find out more about her in the mastheads of Psaltery & Lyre and Cordella Magazine.
Support Planned Parenthood.
Self-described Christian nationalists hate drag
queens because they can’t get pregnant. Can’t
hasten the systematic demise of fragile Mother
Earth with overpopulation, Armageddon prophesy
fulfillment, thereby bringing about the rapture
delusional zealots have been praying for forever.
Hating drag queens because they look like women
they could be attracted to, for the purpose of
procreation. But they would never admit that.
It’s why they despise all queer people, because
to them queer sex doesn’t result in further
unnecessary planet-killing births. More wailing
and fussing hungry and toothless mouths to feed.
“Nature abhors a virgin -- a frozen asset.” Isn’t that
what unmarried writer Nancy said in The Women,
paraphrasing Aristotle? How unsettled they must
have been when lesbians and gay men found
alternative ways to start families, to make them
envious. How dare we enjoy sex as much as we do!
No matter how many times they insist to the contrary,
nowhere in the New Testament, the original fake
news, does it mention homosexuality. They must
have confused their supposed god of love, their
prince of peace, with his unforgiving, cruel daddy
from the Old Testament. Smiting, vengeful trickster
and plague-bringer. Cantankerous AF and hypnotic
as a snake clenching temptation’s apple in its spring-
loaded jaws. One minute they pretend to boo-hoo
about climate change from behind the wheels
of their monster pickup trucks idling in drive-thru
lanes at Chick-Fil-A and the next day take away
the one thing that will save the dying planet in
the long run. But abortion interferes with dominion
theology, the insidious plan for world domination.
As long as I have breath in me, as long as I have
a voice, a fist to punch the air, I will fight off these
assaults on our rights. Gathering with others to stop
traffic, take over streets and parks. Make posters and
carry placards, emblazoned with words of resistance
in day-glo colors, held high over our heads. Chant
slogans and rage to the sky, to the air, the wind,
so our message reaches bystanders, newscasters
and TV cameras, people standing on rooftops and
balconies, lining the sidewalks, either in support or
opposition. This is an old and recognizable song,
sung by those protesting the lack of Republican
response to AIDS deaths in the 1980s and 1990s,
the persistent threat of gay bashing, violence
against Black lives, children separated from their
parents at the border, the blatant mistreatment
of public schoolteachers, lack of common-sense
gun control laws, and every senseless war for
profit. Watch me, or better yet join me, marching
arm in arm with women, sisters, and brothers all,
familiar and stranger alike, united, never divided.
Gregg Shapiro (he/him) is the author of eight books including the poetry chapbook Fear of Muses (Souvenir Spoon Books, 2022). Recent/forthcoming lit-mag publications include The Penn Review, Book of Matches, RFD, Gargoyle, Mollyhouse, Poetic Medicine, and Impossible Archetype, plus the anthologies Proud to Be: A Pride Poetry Collection (Red Penguin, 2022) and Sweeter Voices Still: An LGBTQ Anthology From Middle America (Belt Publishing, 2021). An entertainment journalist, Shapiro lives in South Florida with his husband Rick and their dog Coco.
Support Planned Parenthood.
The Chicken or the Egg 6/24/22
On my poetry conference lunch break
I can’t decide between the café’s
chicken salad sandwich, or an omelet.
A father in the next booth
feeds his daughter sips of juice.
Poets scribble at conference tables.
Elsewhere, men adorn throats in silk neckties
and flick pen-strokes to alter lives.
My phone tings a text from a friend
wishing peace to all the women he knows—
and with that I know
what I didn’t want to know.
Tapping online, food glopped
in my throat like a foreign tongue
I read Roe v. Wade has been
suctioned from the nation’s belly.
Which comes first—the chicken or the egg?
Not fearing for my old eggs anymore but
my five children.
My eyes swell hot like fried eggs.
“We’re Not Gonna Take it”
comes on the café speakers, but
we have and we will
because when your wings are clipped
you have only one fence-line.
Two of my children are still children,
but one a girl so still a sparkling moving target.
The other three reluctantly are not children,
but one a girl so still a chicken beholden to her eggs.
Which comes first?
Poets try to hash it out in notebooks.
Women’s insides exposed like
the Visible Woman doll, awaiting a man to pluck her
apart, decide what’s of use to him.
The waitress asks how we doin?
Elsewhere, a farmer hopes his new rooster
won’t attack his hens like the last one and the last.
My children don’t know what their options aren’t.
My daughter turns twenty-one next week—
smart enough not to sip everything
a man puts toward her mouth.
The dead hens were smart too.
The roosters didn’t care.
At conference tables, poets choose anger.
In their hotel rooms, they choose tears.
The waitress delivers a plate of sunny-side eggs
to a man in a necktie.
I think what are you smiling about?
Do I say it aloud?
And to the man or to the eggs?
Which comes first?
Kerry Trautman (she/her) was born and raised in Ohio. Her work has appeared previously in Limp Wrist, and in other journals, including The Disappointed Housewife, Midwestern Gothic, Thimble, and Gasconade Review. Her poetry books are Things That Come in Boxes (King Craft Press 2012,) To Have Hoped (Finishing Line Press 2015,) Artifacts (NightBallet Press 2017,) To be Nonchalantly Alive (Kelsay Books 2020,) and Marilyn: Self-Portrait, Oil on Canvas (Gutter Snob Books 2022.) Her next collection is forthcoming from Roadside Press.
Support The Agnes Reynolds Jackson Fund.
Hot in the Striped Boy’s Heart*
It’s hot in the loading bridge,
hot in the birth canal,
it’s hot in the striped boy’s heart—
we’re two women driving to D.C. for an abortion
in my beater sea-green LeMans with the SEX,
DRUGS, AND ROCK ‘N ROLL sticker on the bumper.
It’s hot living in my car with the mattress
in the back, the windshield wipers disintegrating
and so it’s raining all the way to D.C. and
my friend is terrified, let it go too long
with a guy she loves but he could care and
she can’t face her parents. Borrowed money
from the waitresses we worked with,
saline solution for a second trimester abortion,
it’s hot in the Silverman’s teeshirt I’m still
wearing from sixth grade with gold and blue stripes,
hot in the men’s store buying my first real shirt
with my girlfriend Patty. I was a boy then, not
yet a woman following the sightlines
from the silver hood ornament to the double yellow.
Hot in the Pontiac trunk of clothes and boxes and
the cheap hotel in Silver Springs for the early
morning procedure, two women in their twenties
out of state for treatment, hot in this traveling altar,
these bodies run amok. Body of light, body
of doubles. Body of never telling anyone, never
seeing her again. Hot in my striped boy’s heart
in this car dragging home with no talk,
*"Hot in the Striped Boy’s Heart" was previously published in The Body Wars (University of Pittsburgh Press, 2020).
Abortion with Gun Barrel
The 12 year-old walks thin, like a child/
her hair alive in vibrating threads
in the clinic light.
Her mother: My daughter. I give my permission.
And the girl cannot be real, or the sky
would burn—not bleed like it does in
the waiting room of grown women.
The mother in the brittle inner office scribbles
her name small on the collapsing form.
Now move the flying hands of the counselor
who becomes the first bird,
stripping the sky blank with air leaving.
Now she walks back to the maze of illuminated
bodies to find a way to make herself dissolve:
Not what I wanted for you, not this.
In the inner body of the clinic, the divining
of this choice: the small name solid,
the songbird stopped/
the singing continues.
I am the counselor,
there are cracks in the barrel of the gun/
there is aiming/
shots of sorrow—
shots of light.
I am ruinous with light, we are ruinous with making
our lives in the procedure room.
The 12 year-old opens the leaving door—
a bird let loose, no clear note to sing.
Song of sorrow and praise as she wears
the skin of herself,
this idea of skin that she’s learning.
*"Abortion with Gun Barrel" was published in Jackknife: New and Selected Poems (University of Pittsburgh Press, 2017).
Not Homeless, Just Moving
I wasn’t homeless, just had my mattress
in my ’69 Chevy, clothes underneath boxes
in the trunk. Everyday stuff in the front-seat
backpack. I moved 14 times that year,
drinking and drugs but still working
my waitress job. I was in motion.
Driving, working, hoping
to stay with a friend for a night,
I was pregnant but kept moving, and then
days later, fired from my downtown job
for trying to start a union—I wasn’t—
just arguing a waitress policy.
So, the night before my abortion staying
with a bartender (not the father) on his couch,
his girlfriend came home late and rightly
kicked me out. I wasn’t homeless,
just moving, 14 times that year,
and I was alone with it.
*"Not Homeless, Just Moving" was previously published in The Body Wars (University of Pittsburgh Press, 2020).
Jan Beatty’s (she/her) seventh book, American Bastard, won the Red Hen Nonfiction Award (2021). The Body Wars was published by the University of Pittsburgh Press. In the New York Times, Naomi Shihab Nye said: Jan Beatty’s new poems in “The Body Wars” shimmer with luminous connection, travel a big life and grand map of encounters. Beatty worked as a waitress, abortion counselor, and in maximum security prisons. For years, she directed the Madwomen in the Attic workshops at Carlow University.
Support Planned Parenthood.
LW #8 - Protest Issue, Part 3: 11/23/22
Last Picture at Jekyll Island
Once the verdant forest reached
the shore. Now stripped trees rise
among fallen trunks and upturned
roots, like exposed hearts, larger
than me and him. Gray weathered
stumps with barks of elephant seal
skins design sculptures on the sand,
slanted branches flowing like wind,
a tangled Dios pointing to the sky,
a fitting place to end our road trip
circling Georgia, on the morning
the highest court strips our rights
meandering over battered remains
on a stunning driftwood cemetery.
Words → Palabras → Parables
the male is an incomplete female
- Valerie Solanas*
His → tory
His → torian
Hys → teria
Hys → terectomy
Man → ly
Man → ifest
Man → ifesto
Man → made
Man → acle
Sola → nas Sola
Her → story
Matanzas → Massacre
Massacre State Forrest
Massacre Wildlife Management Area
Massacre High School
Massacre on the Bay Bar and Grill
Femelle ≠ Masle
Hominen → human
Humus → earth/dust/mud
Fer → tility
Wo → man
Woe → man
Wow → man
Fe → male
Fe → iron
Fe → trust
*Valerie Solanas was a writer, author of the radical feminist SCUM Manifesto.
Carolina Hospital’s (she/her) books include the poetry collections Key West Nights and Other Aftershocks (Anhinga Press), The Child of Exile: A Poetry Memoir (Arte Público Press), and Myth America (Anhinga Press) a collaborative collection with Maureen Seaton, Holly Iglesias, and Nicole Hospital-Medina; as well as the novel A Little Love, under the pen name C. C. Medina (Warner Books). Her work has appeared in publications such as the Norton Anthology of Latino Literature and Raising Lilly Ledbetter: Women Occupy the Workplace.
Support The Brigid Alliance.
I’d like to be wrung out a bit more
I want a fist around my throat
Can you hold my full head in your hand
I want everything I asked for
that means you
I want power, If I can’t have
a clementine, let me smash the worst
(sorry) honey willowleaf lily, castle
crammed of night/mares grave/yards stuffed
monarchs nymphalidae common tiger wanderer
I’m not a woman I’m a queen
who needs (no) god
*"Halsey's Interlude" was previously published in Anti-Heroin Chic.
Say Twist. Say the day
Remember his stupid face
On your 21st birthday,
near the shore.
You were stupid,
hearing his voice,
the lady doth protest
too much, too far away
in the dark,
trespassing at the beach.
(did you really not
think of the consequences?
How many times
will it take before you’ll
finally stop acting so hope-
bound, naïve, to think
it wasn’t going to happen,
not at a gay bar,
not in an instant,
I was resisting,
when he’s breaking
the condom package
with his teeth,
you weren’t watching,
you had your back to him,
you were quiet in your
revolt, you did cry,
cried stop, but it
was too still
for the waves to hear,
and then the police
to punish you.
Linguistic Rewilding / Rebobinas Linguísticos*
A dream as loose
wobbles like teeth
falling out depleted
like power outage
from gum bomb/
trozos de carne asada
con sabor carnal ass-
strong as la menta /
encendida inside the mouth
like lengua as automatic—
With the replacement
of just a few letters
it’s easy to convert
the vowel from “o”
to “a”, to swap the sound
when it’s convenient.
How can la libertad
be a woman when she is
with the replacement
of just a few letters
letra / let her/
como una mujer man-
íaca, trapped man-
tenida como un
hasta que convierte
To preserve something
means to serve before
to persevere with
the masculine standard
form. The language
regulator is Él, como
un padre quien me prescribe
mi rol de género:
ese no es como se sienta
as if there
were no room
to feel. The “ita”
is only added
as a kindness.
I sit pretty, even when
“los hombres”, used to
does not include me,
and “hembra” merely
refers to female animals,
stands in as slang for chick.
When I’m a girl, I take the Spanish
into my mouth; it sparkles.
I leave my door open
when I change and my
father walks past me
as I strip into
a nude sparkler,
just like the words
I play with are,
bare in mi mano,
He barely sees me
but still flinches.
before he can say any-
I yank my mouth
open with my tongue:
voy hacer lo que
quiera como mujer,
y ella puede hacer
lo que le da
la gana con su
I restore a remnant of
my tongue, my self—
the salvaje refuses
to leave me.
*An earlier version of "Linguistic Rewilding / Rebobinas Linguísticos" was published in the American of American Poets website.
Clayre Benzadón (she/her) received her MFA at University of Miami, and currently works as an educator at Miami Dade College. Her chapbook, Liminal Zenith was published by SurVision Books. Her full-length collection, Moon as Salted Lemon was a finalist for the 2021 Robert Dana-Anhinga Poetry Prize and Semifinalist for Sundress Publications' Reading Period. She has been published in places including Academy of American Poets (2019 Alfred Boas Poetry Prize winner), Anti-Heroin Chic, Bluestem Magazine, Olney Magazine, and SWWIM.
Support Floridians for Reproductive Freedom.
Still Life with Obstacle
You look like a burrito the surgeons said
as they gently lifted me down.
The blood I’d been bleeding for days
had clotted a blackish brown.
They tucked the cornflower gown around
my chest and numbing legs.
My fingers printed the memory foam slab
beneath me & touched the straps of the brace.
What’s shredding me open, taking me with it
will be snipped out and lifted away soon.
I’m in too much pain to be put to sleep I said
to the faces illuminated around me in the room.
Furry flies landed on my arms before the elevator
door opened to my wheeled bed rolling inside.
They’d shot a vial of morphine straight to the vein.
By the time I was in the OR, I could not cry.
At home, when I closed my eyes a gray
door appeared at the end of a long—
but not that long—linoleum hall.
Terrible light in the crack. Throat walled off to song.
So I went to the ER. It’s like the worst labor contraction
I said to the intake doctor
while I huddled in my pjs at 3 AM.
He wrote in a report, pain manageable. They forgot her,
I wrote in the scrunched-up furrows of my brain.
They waited to page the OB after lunch the next day.
She came right then. I don’t want to go, the night says
when it can’t stay with the pink light coming anyway.
I said that too, over & over. A man said—typed on Twitter—
It’s God’s Will some pregnant women will die.
Tiny astronaut jammed in my doomed balloon
of stars. 3 weeks of cells. To live, I say goodbye.
The tools looked like carving knives
in the theatre lit up by silver lights.
The Weekend sang on a playlist from 2 flatscreen TVs.
It had been 15 hours. One long fluorescent night.
The anesthesiologist stood quietly like a guard
behind my head when I stopped talking & lay still.
Gasping, I woke in a curtained room, bed facing in.
But I could see gray apartments out of a windowsill.
after the D & C
I want to reach inside of me,
the water of me, to yank you out.
But you’re gone. And I’m painting a room
blue and my palms crack and scar
like I pushed on the breathing ribs
of the sea: all surface, all froth,
the sun searing my heart line.
I listen to Bowie sing about the stars.
My downstairs neighbor lights a bong.
I open the window wider. When I shake
the heavy can of paint, I hear lungs
gulping to swallow water. When I stir
a flat stick into it, veins
marble then blend into the whole.
These are the things I think about
now I’ve left my bed, sealed
tight with a tarp so I would not crawl
back in. So the droplets would not blue
the pillow. I roll the sticky sky
all over the walls. Your absence tilts
like a bell within the truss of me. All I
am & all I was. My belly blown
like an egg. The last time I saw you
floating in the deepest waters
of a screen, your eyes
little pearls, your cheeks trumpeting,
I believed you I believed you were alive.
Tyler Mills (she/her) is the author of City Scattered (Snowbound Chapbook Award, Tupelo Press 2022), Hawk Parable (Akron Poetry Prize, U Akron Press 2019), Tongue Lyre (Crab Orchard Series in Poetry First Book Award, SIU Press 2013), and co-author with Kendra DeColo of Low Budget Movie (Diode Editions 2021). Her nonfiction manuscript, The Bomb Cloud, recently received a Literature Grant from the Café Royal Foundation NYC. She teaches for Sarah Lawrence College’s Writing Institute and lives in Brooklyn, NY.
Support Planned Parenthood.