“On Access” by Victoria Kornick

Victoria Kornick


We’re meeting after school. My student is eleven,
she’s eating cheese curls, her story is good. Really good,
I tell her. We’re working on metaphor in class.
One word contains a million images, I explain.
When I say my heart, what do I mean? It’s early spring,
election season, the light slant through the windows,
the Supreme Court stalled. Her story is about a girl
who is brave and smart and flawed and travelling
through space. Online, my male friends tell me why Hillary
isn’t good enough, and Gloria Steinem, and Beyoncé
isn’t good enough, and are silent this week
when the Supreme Court hears its case on access.
I read the testimony of women who’ve had abortions
and feel different ways about them. Regret is used
as evidence in support of closing clinics, the argument being
that women might make the wrong choice
if given a choice. If I were a person who posts online,
I would say girls learn, year by year, to be quieter,
to listen as men have conversations
about what they believe are our mistakes.
In middle school, my teacher told me I was too smart
to read Agatha Christie. He gave me books by men instead.
On the planet where my student’s story takes place,
everything is like Earth, but slightly different.
The elephants have brighter eyes. The sky is greener,
and the girl yells when she’s angry and says when she’s scared.
A heart can mean anything, my student tells me.
The aliens on her planet have gold blood;
their hearts are crystal clear. I tell her the story
can go on for as long as she wants it to.

Poets Respond
March 8, 2016

[download audio]


Victoria Kornick: “I’ve been following the Supreme Court case on abortion clinics in Texas, a case that has major implications for abortion access across America. Reading the amicus curiae briefs submitted by both sides sparked this poem. I wanted to ground the conversation about abortion access in a larger conversation about being a woman. I’m a teacher, and I think about what I learned at my students’ age—elementary and middle school—and what I’d like them to know.”

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