“Speculation at 50” by Madeleine Tully

Madeleine Tully


What’s new? Dr. M asks 
like we talk all the time—
then Scoot down a bit, and I do,
tensing. Speculum inserted,
I say, “I didn’t get my period for three months,
but then I did.” So, it’s starting, she says.
I feel the cold plastic, then the swab.
It hurts like everything hurts this week.
“I actually thought I might be pregnant—
but not really.” Highly unlikely, she adds.
Dr. M asks about the man,
and I wish I had remained silent
like someone arrested.
I tell her we broke up a week ago. 
He couldn’t commit, she says with conviction,
so much so that I say, “No, he had a wife—
I didn’t know.” She takes the speculum out
and her gloved fingers slip inside to feel my ovaries.
Then I start to fucking cry.
She says, Don’t cry. 
She moves on to the breast exam. 
“He was too committed,” I say, laughing a little.
How’d you find out? she asks. 
I tell her about the pictures on Instagram, 
and she asks what I said to him. 
I don’t lie because I am so naked,
as transparent as my skin,
the blue veins of my breasts 
exposed. “I messaged his wife.” 
She kneads my other breast, lifts my arm,
kneads again. What I don’t say is that 
I fell in love once—this once. 
When he asked about my day, 
he really wanted to know, his questions 
roving freely, as though they were 
his hands. I sit up, pull at the strings 
of my blue gown, look at my clothes
crumpled on the chair beside me.
He taught me to pronounce “ebullient,” 
the word I used to describe his laugh.
Her back to me, Dr. M washes her hands.
I will see you in a year. Feel better
she says, then turns to toss 
the gloves and paper scraps into the trash. 

from Rattle #76, Summer 2022


Madeleine Tully: “I’d like to sound more intellectual about things, but the truth is that writing poetry saves me. This poem found me at my most vulnerable, hunted me actually. Then it helped heal me.”

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