for Alli, Amy, Annie, Ellie, Erica, Henry, Katie, Lucy, Madi, Tessa, and Zaria
I bled through the first month of every pregnancy.
I have been bleeding for weeks. I am bleeding even now,
and I have ruined at least fifteen pairs of underwear.
Poet M says no one wants to read about my underwear,
especially not in the first stanza. She said nothing
about the second, though, or where in the poem
should introduce the subject of her underwear
if she’s going to write about it. Poet A didn’t mind underwear
in the first stanza. But it was only my first draft,
and maybe he was afraid to say anything.
The nurse draws blood and checks my vitals, which are mostly
normal. Blood pressure elevated, per usual.
I tell her there’s not enough triple-ply on the Eastern Shore
to staunch my flow. That I’ve cleared the aisles of every store
within fifty miles. I tell her it’s unlikely although possible:
I could be pregnant. But at my age, the question of age
begins to sound accusatory.
You’re how old?
What do you use for birth control? Do you need birth control?
What she really means: at forty-seven, you are too old
to have another baby. Later I tell the doctor, who looks fifteen,
that I have an IED. No. I mean an IUD.
I get them confused all the time,
ever since I started writing poems about my former student,
who nearly died when an IED blew up under his foot.
Right now my uterus feels like it is going to explode.
Speaking of explosions.
I took some students to an abortion rally this week in Annapolis,
and I couldn’t stop staring at the parking garage
behind the speakers and all that dark, open space between the pillars,
where anyone could hide with a gun and snipe us.
I promised their parents we would be safe.
How can anyone promise that? The ice cream truck
turned anti-abortion Jesus mobile that we’d seen earlier
never showed up with its megaphone. I’m not sure,
but I think there was a suspicious and possibly explosive
device in the cemetery and that the bomb squad was called
(I heard the sirens).
But no one looked too worried, and we walked right past
the cemetery and police officers on the way back to my car.
Then again, no one in the mall last summer looked all that worried,
either, when the newspaper shooting was happening across the street.
People were still eating outside at California Pizza Kitchen
as the office building was being evacuated. I remember it was
a nice day—blue sky, not too hot for the end of June.
I thought about advising my students to scatter and run in zigzags
if anything happened, but I didn’t, and nothing awful happened,
and then we ate pancakes, and everyone got home safely.
No blood. Isn’t that the barometer these days?
When the boys were toddlers and went outside to play
their hunting game—one was the hunter, the other was the deer,
who, when shot with a stick, would have to collapse on the ground,
legs and arms sprawled, tongue sticking out, eyes rolling—
I would tell them,
I don’t want to hear it from you unless there is blood.
The doctor asks me to scoot down and spread my legs. Wider.
You’re going to feel something cold, he says, inserting the wand.
I try to focus on the flowers that are blooming in the creases
of my elbows. (The nurse had a hard time finding a good vein.)
On the screen, nothing is showing: no tangled, fisted orb.
No inexplicable mass. Just my empty sac, cloud-swept.
“Cloud-swept” is my attempt at lyric expression.
I wanted this poem to be shorter, snappier, but I can’t help it.
In workshop the poet E once told me I tend toward the discursive.
We all have our own natural tendencies, she said. The key
is to temper those impulses like the Greeks did with tragedy.
It’s the old tension between the Apollonian and the Dionysian.
Order versus chaos—the balance between them,
what to leave in, what you can live without.
from Poets Respond
May 28, 2019
Amanda Newell: “This poem responds to one of the #stopthebans abortion rallies that were happening across the nation. Several of my students asked me if I wanted to go, so we all went together to the Annapolis rally. As the speaker mentions in the poem, I was really worried about my students’ safety, who among the crowd might be hiding with a gun, and what it means to be ‘safe’ at a time when the female body is under siege in ways I have never imagined. I was also at the Annapolis mall last year when the Capital-Gazette shooting happened across the street, so I know firsthand how quickly violence happens, and sadly, how simply exposed we all are at all times—even by our own bodies, which betray us, too.” ( web)