Roe v Wade

As I sit here inside this blue sky sunny day and watch the crepe myrtle trees in full bloom blow in the wind I wonder about who is celebrating the overturning of Roe v. Wade? And what must they be thinking? What must it feel like to champion the end of women’s right to a safe and legal abortion? Who is this person? It’s strange because other than the dark suited politicians we see on television making speeches to denounce safe and legal abortions, I can’t really imagine this person is a man. Not in this moment. So I try a little harder, maybe he’s on his lunch break or sitting at his computer, or stepping out onto the patio to raise his arms in the air, thank his God, once again, we live in a land free and clear of safe and legal abortions. Today on this Friday, which is Venus’s day, as the northern hemisphere blooms into summer, the same moment it begins its downward drop into the year’s darkest hour, women are no longer allowed to procure a safe and legal abortion in this land. He breathes in the warm air and thinks about how he might celebrate this later tonight with his girlfriend or wife, or maybe he will cut out from work early and go play 18 holes. Day drink on the cart because finally the clinics will be closed and freedom will ring. Finally those poor and wealthy, white but mostly brown women who have made a decision to terminate a pregnancy will have nowhere to turn.  They will be prohibited from protecting and defending their bodies, the trajectory of their lives, their health, their time and energy, and forced to bring forth an unwanted human being into this great land.  Forced to decide to give the child up to an adoption agency, forced to give the child to another family member (who will very likely be another woman – young or old, poor or working class, white but probably brown), forced to drop the child off on a doorstep, in a garbage can, at a rest stop, in a river; but more likely forced to raise that child, that unwanted human being for the next eighteen years or so (he’d assume); protecting and defending, feeding and working, sacrificing herself for a child she does not want and did not plan for (the reasons as endless as the waves).  Prohibited, he will sigh with satisfaction, grabbing his golf bag, loading his SUV, surely he will sleep soundly tonight. 

What feels difficult about this imagining, is not the fact of the man enjoying (or not) his Friday afternoon, who walks taller and feels stronger because women in America (and everywhere else) have been made more powerless. That assumption requires no imagination at all, it is fact; a fact lodged in my brain and bludgeoned into every piece of my being for as long as I’ve been alive. The disconnect is with the legislative, broad brush stroke, historic repercussion that I don’t quite see a man celebrating as he might a football game, because his superiority is assured (and reassured) by every facet of our culture. It is the air we breathe. It is a given that she is powerless and purposefully kept that way. 

But God said, thou shalt not kill. Ah, the cover, the blind, the cloud and fog, enabling him to forget that his power derives solely from her powerlessness. Her inability to choose. 

Unfortunately, but frankly, it is far easier for me to sit here and imagine the woman who celebrates. Who has absorbed and swallowed so much hate for women poured into her from her first breath; though she may feel some pity (not compassion) for those women who will no longer be able to procure a safe and legal abortion women are to be feared, mistrusted, kept at an arms length. Women are emotional and manipulative, women lie. Women are crafty and judgmental and weak. God said, thou shalt not kill. How dare they defy him? They stand in their kitchens and build a sandwich, drive their kids to a gym, to the grocery store, shrug and reduce a whole life to a four worded command. 

On this day I sit with so much anger. At those men yes, and the women who continue to go along, bite their tongue, sidestep. Who comfort themselves with commandments and rationalize with Netflix and the nightly news, marry men they do not challenge, so they can cook dinner or stay busy and settle for a cheap version of protection in place of the complicated, authentic unknown. Women who love their daughters fiercely and consign them to be powerless placaters playing a game with their lives.  

As much as I’d like my anger to be directed at such a singular woman (and man) I know they are fewer than I think.  They just make for easy targets on the page.  Some may celebrate outwardly, as they inwardly shudder, acknowledging (or hoping not to acknowledge, yet again) that inward rumble, that inner sense of unease. That cerebral tallying of all the things they have “compromised” and all the battles they have willingly surrendered, the parts of themselves they hide away, drink away, busy away, the secrets they keep. The fragility and the limit of their certainty. By those rules every man is an island.
 

Have we forgotten that life contains death? That death contains life? That these two things are equal and equally intertwined? The summer solstice, longest day of the year, is also the day the year tips on its side toward the end? The dark right here in the climax of light; winter’s freeze embedded within the sun’s longest day. They are always and inevitably and necessarily bound. Have we not lived enough years to know when something has to die? Have we not looked back often enough in reflection on our lives to see that the end of a relationship is often right there in the beginning?  In that first exchange of words, that first date, the first time you locked eyes. There, the beginning and there, the end. Do we not often grow and heal by saying goodbye, by letting go? By taking our leave? Have we not felt at once, the humility and power in accepting that something is not meant for us, not meant to be, not the right time, not the right place? 

Having no children of my own, having only watched friends and family members become parents and devote their lives to raising children, it is hardest of all to imagine what life would feel like to raise a child I did not want. 

When I was 17 I got pregnant.  (I became pregnant, I had unprotected sex, I was having unprotected sex, I found myself pregnant…interesting the verbs for this state of becoming/begetting/being impregnated…and if I had wanted to share that in the present tense: I am pregnant, I am currently, at this moment in time, carrying a fetus, a child, I am with child, a fetus/child is growing inside me, my body is supporting the growing of this fetus/child… I am pregnant, I would have said, not, I am a mother.)

When I was 17 I got pregnant. Which is also to say I was already powerless, already in a state of powerlessness, if the phrase is I got pregnant. It’s deceptive isn’t it? It’s vague. Did I go out and get pregnant, or did I get pregnant because someone got me pregnant? Who did the getting? 

When I was 17, I had unprotected sex, and I became (became: to come into existence; to come to be) pregnant. But I was still me. I was still a 17 year old girl-woman too. And I’m using girl-woman because I was not a woman, and I was not a girl. (Which is also to say, I was unnamable but still powerless. As a girl-woman, as a minor, I was powerless.) And that’s how I perceived myself.  Not as someone’s mother, not as someone growing a child, not even as someone carrying a child. That language did not fit my state of being. My power was only in limited language, (a way of perceiving myself) and therefore describe myself as pregnant; in a state of being I did not want to be in. 

And so to solve this problem (this state of being was the problem) the solution was not carrying the pregnancy to its completion. It was to seek a way to end the state of being I did not want to be in.  I was Catholic and I wanted an abortion. I prayed to God every night for help. Help me God, I don’t know what to do.  (Unspoken but implicit in this prayer: I am powerless.) When the pregnancy terminated itself after five months, thereby passing the threshold from miscarriage to still birth, I was driven to the hospital by my father who I told only that night of my state. Doubled over in pain (Contractions? Labor pains? My body rejecting, terminating, expelling and ending the state of being pregnant to begin some other state…) I sat at a hospital desk and was admitted while I shared my address and age and race and other necessary identifiers while my uterus choked on itself to expel and express and reject and terminate my state of being because it was time. 

After the still birth, after the fetus was rejected and expelled and puddled brown and moss green on an examination table, I returned to the hospital the following day for the procedure I had wanted months ago: a D&C, dilation and curettage.  A D&C is one of the methods that can be used when a woman chooses to terminate (end) a pregnancy. For months I had been working on a research paper as an assignment for my senior english class.  We had to research a topic of our choosing, write a lengthy paper and then present this topic to the class.  Because I’d discovered I was pregnant in August, I spent the fall researching Roe v. Wade. This way, I calculated, I could look up abortion clinics and procedures on the computers in the school library as my cover, even as the rumors made their way around the halls.  I looked up which states allowed legal abortions, how much they cost, the addresses of the clinics, the age restrictions (since I was a minor I would need to bring an adult who was at least 25) and even went so far as to Mapquest the clinic address. Write down the miles, the hours of travel time, the roads to take me there. Powerless to do anything but imagine what the day would entail, wonder who I could ask to accompany me, how long the trip would last, what story I could make up to explain my absence. I traced my finger along the lines to New Jersey and New York and thought: freedom.

Only after I returned to live in my hometown twenty years later, did I realize one night while walking my dog, that the safe and legal abortion I wanted was given to me, not in a state hundreds of miles away, but at my own city hospital, just an eight minute drive from my house on the south edge of town.  I wasn’t allowed to ask for what I wanted and I wasn’t allowed to get it. A dead fetus had to drop out of me in the middle of a bright hospital room in order to undergo the D&C. So it was allowed, and it was safe, and it was legal as long as the fetus was dead, as long as I wasn’t in control, as long as I remained powerless throughout my state of being.

Maybe she is a star, a reminder that none of this is guaranteed. Burning hotter and hotter, body weary from holding fire through these years. Pain sets up cages in her hands, dissolves the soft ease in her arms, her thighs, her narrow feet. Numbs the limbs into stumbling white pain. Cinder block contained she needs her sleep. Needs to eat. Needs the yard, the sun, the exercise to keep her strong; to fight for another day. As long as her cells stay busy attacking and wrecking and ravaging one another, as long as the fight never ends she will live. She will live exactly this way from now on. She wakes again to the birds and decides this battle will continue, agrees with blood on her tongue to be both hunter and prey, a decimated city, bludgeoned into perpetuity. Cell eating cell, carnage, world without end. All so that she can love, love, love. 

The end of love
Lost
that beautiful life
rolled out into forever scenes
of dinners made
of socks stolen
of home given and shared / Wanted
but lost

End of singular love
the one true / the citadel
the line / the narrow
the shallow womb no more / Instead

The curved invisible arc
found by two white swans
who lift from the lake / glide silent
in tandem past sleeping houses
docks and eyeless boats

Only to return / land back where they began
The pass finished
The water new / again
The sky explodes / The colors are everywhere
and everything

Dear John

I wouldn’t have known a good man, if he picked me up from LAX in his grandfather’s delicate little truck, wearing a scraggly beard that likely took months to grow full of holes, patches of mouse brown hair poking through soft skin, so good even the point of his chin bothered me to pain when he finally shaved. 

I’d never met a man who was a barback, who cared for an elderly woman, or sublet an apartment. A man in his twenties who wore orthopedic shoes, slept with a running hair dryer in his bed, drew my eye to the perfect light in LA. 

A good man who went to black box theater, took me to my first Thai dinner and wore t-shirts that barely skimmed the waist of his jeans. For me the sex was fine, at best; we watched the UK version of the Office and that was mesmerizing.

I still have the playlist of songs he made me, which was once a CD, back when you gave a person CDs.  All the songs still hold; they lasted long after we did not. For all his effort – the drive to Malibu to watch the waves, the home cooked meals, gas and groceries he could not afford – nothing came close to that first trip in November, when emails led to the Hollywood Hills, an evening parked under the stars, sitting in the truck bed, his head in my lap, words falling over laughter over – art – if someone had chanced to catch us – in the act of the best night which always seems to be the first.  

Roslyn

After the last page was finished and the book was closed. After the sun day is done, I thought tonight about having more of my days infused with freedom, rather than stolen by authority, chore, or some mindless monster—fear. And again, I thought, why do I write, each night? The waves bringing in this same question again. It is certainly not to be a famous writer, of that I know. Why do I do this thing still? In almost every evening, every morning? All of it maybe a prayer I am piecing together, one that will never fully take form or shape. It is simply an attempt, a need, to spend my humble attention on this beauty becoming all around. Some of it is dream, or memory, some is here and now. And it is nothing I’d like to stare into, rearrange, not often am I long captivated in the least. They are big sweeping strokes, they come quickly, with the smell of the pen, the feel of the page. This prayer lets my heart wander free. There is some relief with age that this is a losing and that no wall will offer protection. That freedom is granted here, by my own attention to beauty, becoming.

Ares

I looked for him today but he wasn’t there.

A serious practitioner

a laborer loyal 

to the craft. He is probably 

tinkering alone in this next 

set of days – using his time

wisely and moving this word

here or 

there.

Regarding the slender column

with steady familiarity

like a field of flowers by the road

in a dream.

The two threads woven

round one another 

hiding caves and stars

solitary islands 

a man’s back in the moonlight

or a small fire on the beach

of his mind. A memory

wrapped round his present. 

That’s what I miss. 

progress

An adventure. Where is that? The mountains. The ocean. The language of the world. Being here, that’s what she kept saying in meditation, you’re right here. Being here brought to mind that I don’t feel safe with my father. It was a wordless unease. There has always had to be a withholding both inward and external. Or perhaps the compensation was external, the half-hearted effort, the crooked smile; anger one of the few things we shared. This required a maneuvering, a sorting, a shifting through of logic and rationale. Negotiation of the physical space (the rooms, the restaurant, the sidewalk) and time. A reason needed to be found, like a cluster of rocks just offshore, to stand on. A story assembled to know, or build a bridge, or a cage around myself. Or around him. He’s just that way. There are just things you cannot say. Another language. Another country. And he doesn’t see me past the mask I wear, couldn’t, can’t. It would break him. I blamed myself for a long time and he agreed, walked that bridge, all the way to where it ended in a foggy cloud. The good and the bad all came from the same root. Something was growing there but too many moons of neglect and one day it just vanished.

This music takes me back, back to Pennsylvania and a younger version of myself who would travel on weekends to see friends and listen to this album in the car with mountains flying by the windows. Still hopeful. All still possible. All still out there waiting to be found—that belief intact. Enough to get from one weekend, one visit, one season, to the next. 

Lately there has been distraction to crowd out the writing—this writing—just my voice on the page. And of course there will always be distraction, the distraction is the constant. Some years it is a job, some years it is love or irritatingly inadequate companionship, some years it is heartbreak and self-pity. Some years it is too much time, too much space, too much blessed, willed for, wished for solitude. 

There have been, there are, things that pull me from the page in different ways. And maybe this is not a terrible thing. It’s only taken me seven years to mourn the loss of utter and unadulterated freedom. Miles has been staring at me from his bed for the last 35 minutes, watching me clear off this borrowed dining room table that is also my desk.  Walk back and forth into the other room to pay off another month of my storage unit, light a candle, fix some tea, clear the books (mine and those I’m borrowing from the library) from atop the dresser in the bedroom and find a home for them all, once and for all, on the glass coffee table in the corner of the living room. Now that I am finally in one place, tapping the keys, will he close his eyes, opening them now and then just to make sure I am still here. 

A writing companion. 

There is something familiar and lovely about writing on this old mac from 2008. So thankful that it starts up and returns every time I ask. 

In this in-between waiting time, before I know what the next will be, my mind spins stories into a bridge, some sure footing leading into the future unknown. Georgia spent an academic year teaching in Columbia, though I don’t think she ever wanted to return to that city once the spring semester ended.  The restriction of the south did involve a lighter teaching load and this led to her famous black and white charcoals drawn while sprawled across the floor of her rented flat in the wee hours of the night. The ones that would be sent to Alfred in New York, who would infamously declare: “finally, a woman on paper!” Or something like that. My version of this was to clean off the table tonight, having spent the day reading about a very different place and time.

Yesterday, was it yesterday?, yes, I woke early and started writing at 5. Was able to take Miles for a walk at six, which meant we made it all the way downtown, to his delight, where the streets still reeked of beer and stale food from the night before. With the sun just rising it was cool enough to walk that distance to his favorite part of town, the only time we go there, absent of crowds.  Luckily I was able to turn him toward the river and back north when I saw something shiver above the surface of the water. I saw it’s fin and tail, up down, up down a few times and it had to be either a dolphin or a shark. It’s undulations made me think of a dolphin – but how could this be? I do think the river is a mix of fresh and salt water but I never expected to see a dolphin. 

Maybe I’m wrong. But there it was. It felt like a gift, on this path I’ve walked a hundred times now, breaking through the shell of my day, my certainty, my sturdy, congealed thoughts at 6:30am, all I think I know. A man sat below me on the narrow deck of his boat docked at a pier and I wondered if he’d seen it too, but he stared dumbly at the cups and bottles on a small table in front of him as if he might throw up, or tip himself into the water.  I followed its path south to see if it would break the surface again, but as far as I could see it didn’t. 

My friend came into town this weekend and as it happened we never met up. She was the friend I drove across the country with and her arrival also seemed like a breaking through of something, a readying, a preparation, an announcement that something was speaking through: it’s coming soon. Soon. Remember. 

This album makes me think of travel, flinging myself across many states, it makes me think of much younger years and hours in a car reassembling my thoughts on the road. That car being a studio, a darkroom, a container for something, some process that needed to be borne. 

Funny that after all these years, and this past year of having nothing truly obligatory to fill my days, I still sit down to write in the evening, when the sun is just leaving, when it feels like the right time. But only when I am alone.

The doing of this thing, will be the thing itself. And maybe that is enough. 

For whatever reason, whatever place the stars and planets hold in the sky, whatever season this is, or brief part of the river or shore I’ve stumbled upon, I have lately thought of him. And perhaps this memory is an invention, created entirely by my mind, but I thought many years ago he told me to go out and see the world and write it all down. It would have happened at the end of our evening when we’d finished our assigned duties of the day and everyone was saying their goodbyes, now properly reunited with significant others, some sparklers still lighting up the dark. The best of him, maybe, was to be a mirror. To show me back to myself, if only to remind: the doing of this thing will be the thing itself. It will be enough to go and see and write it all down. There is some steadiness to this and truth.   

But. I miss my people. I miss those long ago years. If there are distractions in my life, things that pull me away, things that require me, have twisted me or warped my thinking, my certainty, my knowing, the same must and can be said of those I love. 

I suppose most people our age would entertain a “vacation” to solve this problem.  An annual trip or visit, and that weekend or handful of days would be all that is allotted each year to reintroduce ourselves to one another in the flesh.  Most have their own families now, their own tribes, their own walls and ways.  

This is the part of the story I do not have answers for. I do not know what happens next or where.  Some cling to their beloved and their known.  I’ll bring these same songs, this mac from 2008 and all my magic, all my want; the questions will come with me and maybe this is enough.     

June 26

Dear June, 

I feel you with me tonight. And I feel you drawing me close, closer to home—and closer to the start of this next chapter. It feels a little like that drive to your house, your last, before heading on to Chicago. The first time I did this thing of dying to one life, starting another, making a journey and driving west. If only to drive back east. 

I remember I’d arrived before you were home, so I went and sat on a bench in your backyard to wait. The once palatial garden of another address had shrunk down into this little fenceless yard, with its few plants lining the house that no one seemed to visit but yourself. You used an old laundry detergent jug as a watering can.  

It has been a long wait. A long stalling wait. And there is nothing romantic about the destination. Deep into the heart of the ordinary. Those calm summers. Those safe middling Julys. Funny how we wind up going somewhere because it held our past. Because it was where someone ended up living out the rest of their days. Where they moved because someone else found a job.  Where they sat and wrote letters, finished puzzles, let dishes soak in the day’s dirty water. Kept old bottles of their red nailpolish, empty plastic tubs that once held butter or cottage cheese, watered their plants, laced up their shoes. Got on with it. 

There was always something safe about being there—in those rooms I almost never felt danger, or terror, or unease, or even anger. All that would come later. 

I know that place is gone now and will never return.  But maybe I can find something new. And be one days drive closer to the west. Can press words out on the page, can travel through the plains, the rockies, the coast and offer up my heart, again. Can read Jack, delirious with stunted sentences and the hope in all that awaits. Full to the brim with all that’s changed. 

Worthy because it is close to the bone of me, that’s what this next step is. Leaving what no longer fits. Listening to the same old songs, thankfully, because they are a woman dragging her boat across the sand, two oars in the bottom of the canoe, to try again for the waves. 

There is still so much. 

And God knows I’ll need it all. God knows love requires it. 

Nothing tonight could happen but to write you. And thankfully I did leave it all and go.  It made no logical sense. There was no plan. It was an act that seemed full of purpose, though I dared whisper it aloud, and contained a momentum I reasoned would carry me much longer than it actually did.  

But now reaching back I see why it was done. To be the best of me, out there in the world, asking to be seen, remembered, the biggest deposit I’d ever made, for whenever I needed to know, to believe, in my own good and true.  Flung out in disarray, alive, fearful, thrilled; to be seeing and writing and free. To learn how to live my own prayer. 

Not out of duty or pity, but Love. This is what it means to grow up. Maybe all it takes is time. 

I go where I love and where I am loved, 

into the snow;

I go to the things I love

with no thought of duty or pity; 

-H.D., The Flowering of the Rod

poesy

Smelling tomatoes reminds me of June

of July—of that huge flat backyard

Of the garden and fireflies

Night lights, blue dark

and tree cover

—soil and sun spill

riven red metal

June loved the mountains 

they summoned her Irish aesthetic 

but I loved the neat clip 

the order of flat 

midwest squares

Canned green beans, sourdough bread

a checkered tablecloth, a 

brown bowl with spoon and lid 

meant only for sugar

summer storms, winter ice

Always the weather

always June