Procedure

1 May 2017

Your displeasure encircled,
like descending mesh, that first occasion
we called a conversation.
Was I the blanched insect
and you the hunter,
with your barbed question-net?
The gendered metaphor
flutters weakly, but does not die

No feminist assertion
swoops down to devour it.
This is new territory.
There is no theory that can
rival this, me splintering
under your gaze
like last century’s woman

As if you had pinched the thorax
of a butterfly,
fastened me to a board
with each quick piercing
of disapproving thoughts,
like an entomologist’s
single-minded enamel pins

Pins in a woman’s dress,
pins in her hair,
pins, pins, to fix, to fix her –
with a needle and thread
she sits, sewing her silence,
an inheritance passed on

I hold her in contempt, but here I am
weaving quietude and guilt
while you tell me how you feel.
Still, it seems to me
your mouth is a wound
I want to stitch up
Your eyes, once seamless,
now full of gashes
that refuse my useless craft

I wasn’t trying to convince you.
I just needed you to know
how it felt to cradle this heavy speck,
the frightening consequences
of blood and semen.
To hear of hormones,
caressing me like warm heroin
or the voice of a hypnotist

I couldn’t describe it. I was slipping
from your downturned mouth,
like a stitch from a knitting needle
now futile and crooked.
I told you later that I would do it.
“Fuck the world” I said,
and we fucked,
and I pulled up the blanket
so you wouldn’t see the question mark
hovering like paused scissors
over my terrible belly

I unravelled.
The safety pin inside,
coming loose, lanced me.
And guilt formed, like a clot.
Guilt grew at a faster pace.
I cowered before guilt,
and its threat of emptiness
that gaped at me
like a hole in my stocking,
widening, widening.

Grief-struck, I messaged you.
I don’t know what to do, I said.
You explained, over text,
the procedure to me,
gleaned from a doctor friend:
“The first pill detaches the embryo
from the uterus.
The second pill flushes it out.”

As if it needed explaining.
As if I had not thought about
running away with
the possibilities in my flesh.
As if I had not scrolled through
countless internet pages,
every medical point a pricking,
drawing blood in advance

When you sent me that text,
matter-of fact, cold, like a needle
through my frayed cloth-mind,
did you feel any sadness,
for the lump that was us, nascent,
for the girl who stroked your hair?
And so I bled, and bled,
and released the tiny burden.

You were sad, you did say,
after I lay in a hospital bed
empty of the loaded clot,
you were sad because of how I felt.
I know men don’t feel
the body’s cushioning response,
its demands, but you demanded too

All feminist affirmations
bounced off the glass or lightly stuck
and slid away.
No rally sign or slogan badge tells us this.
You’re either for, or against –
there is no messy space in between.
No one explains, and I tried to.

But when you explained
the procedure to me,
so calmly over text,
you dropped my heart, like a rag,
in a pool of dirty water.
I didn’t know
you were carrying it.

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