Daily we push tiny pills through their
thin foil backing.
We swallow the calendar, counting out days,
blessings with each bleeding.
In our dreams we crave ligation of the uterine
scalpels dancing with clamps, festooned with beaded knots
gut. We fantasize rituals of ablation
and wake to the smell of cauterized
We fear falling and falling like Alice through the Fallopian passage
into a dark vascular basement, and never resurfacing.
The ovaries simmer with
a world too large and possible to accept,
thousands of lives we want for ourselves.
We suck in our eggs like breath, as if walking through exhaust.
We do not yet hate ourselves fully.
What we can't bear is the chance of bearing
and passing on the disease of woman. Call it
disorder. Call it anorexia nervosa.
Call it endometriosis. The body turns
its own vagrant tissues.
We picture ourselves the
maiden aunts, the nannies, the nurses.
We are said to be excellent with children.
People praise our singular compassion.
And it is not clear how we came
here from pretty childhoods,
to become the abortion counselors, the birth
The ones who preside in the tiny windowless rooms
woman has decided she must do it.
When she backs down the hall to await her
or escapes to the parking lot for calming gulps of blue smoke,
we sit listening to the silence, where there are screams:
the roar of a woman
grabbing her own life by the cells.
She will not give up. We hold her whitening
while the unspeaking doctor stretches and empties her.
hate him for it, and we thank him for it.
She worries about the marks her
nails will grip into our hands,
and we spread callused palms before her to
she should not fear hurting us. This is what we do,
from our strength.
We are bystanders to the necessary pain.
© 1997 Jessica Manke
has worked for Planned Parenthood in Nashville Tennessee for five years in
education and abortion counseling, and just finished her Master of Science in
Nursing at Vanderbilt University. She is very committed to abortion access and
hopes to become a mid-level provider of abortion (RN, PA, NP).
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a matter of taking the side of the weak against the strong, something that the
best people have always done."