May 13, 2018

Chera Hammons

ANYTHING WORTH SAVING

They say the body can remember feeling pain,
but not well enough to feel it twice.
Once it has passed, it has gone for good.
See the way a person curls around an ache;
later, try to prove that it was there.
Ask a mother who has untangled her blood from her child’s
if she would do it all over again.

Beyond my front door the troubled world is waiting.
I yearn for something I don’t know how to name.
Is it something more than survival?
In the obstetrician’s office, pictures of flowers
litter the walls. Labeled pistil, stamen, petal.
People listen to music while they wait.
In farther rooms, faded cotton gowns
are folded. Meant to be tied in the front.

They say to be cursed, you’ve got to believe in curses.
What is a woman? Can you kiss
any of that hurt away?
The wood is too green and will not burn.
We leave with what we carried when we arrived—
a hunger, a love of air. That’s it.
I don’t know how to take compliments,
so I bury them alive.

You know how when you look at a light for too long,
everything gets the shape of that brightness on it.
People ask, this thing that you made.
Did you have to make it? Does it have meaning?
Did you have to do it so that you could live?

Some days, you have to forget pain
before you can make yourself believe
that this world is anything worth saving.

Now there are scars where the wounds have been,
the same shape as the wounds.
Now we are ruining our bodies again
and trusting that they will forgive us.

from Poets Respond

[download audio]

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Chera Hammons: “I wrote this poem after reading an article posted by NPR entitled, ‘For Every Woman Who Dies in Childbirth in the U.S., 70 More Come Close.’ It notes that survival only comes at great cost. Anyone who reads this article must surely wonder, how is it possible that such a cost is acceptable to us?” (web)

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