an After abortion

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Saturday, August 14, 2004

Abortion in poetry.
"It is difficult to get the news from poems
yet men die miserably every day
for lack of what is found there."
--William Carlos Williams
How abortion is experienced by those who have had one is rarely depicted in literature, movies or on television. This avoidance mirrors our general aversion to talking about how it feels to have had an abortion.

I am gradually collecting a set of links to poems, songs, short stories, novels, television episodes and films that try to capture the experience of having had an abortion. Although some of the authors were or are politically pro-choice, the mood that emerges in these literary treatments is dark and haunted.

Here are many links to poems about abortion. Most lead to the full poem.

Anne Sexton: The Abortion. ... (more links here)
Gwendolyn Brooks: the mother
Abortions will not let you forget.
You remember the children you got that you did not get,
The damp small pulps with a little or with no hair,
The singers and workers that never handled the air.
You will never neglect or beat
Them, or silence or buy with a sweet.
You will never wind up the sucking-thumb
Or scuttle off ghosts that come.
You will never leave them, controlling your luscious sigh,
Return for a snack of them, with gobbling mother-eye.

I have heard in the voices of the wind the voices of my dim killed
I have contracted. I have eased
My dim dears at the breasts they could never suck.
I have said, Sweets, if I sinned, if I seized
Your luck
And your lives from your unfinished reach,
If I stole your births and your names,
Your straight baby tears and your games,
Your stilted or lovely loves, your tumults, your marriages, aches,
and your deaths,
If I poisoned the beginnings of your breaths,
Believe that even in my deliberateness I was not deliberate.
Though why should I whine,
Whine that the crime was other than mine?--
Since anyhow you are dead.
Or rather, or instead,
You were never made.
But that too, I am afraid,
Is faulty: oh, what shall I say, how is the truth to be said?
You were born, you had body, you died.
It is just that you never giggled or planned or cried.

Believe me, I loved you all.
Believe me, I knew you, though faintly, and I loved, I loved you

Laura-Doe and/or Holly Day: Coming Home from the Exorcist.
Lucille Clifton: The Lost Baby Poem. ...(more information and discussion here)
Dave Sloan: Dead Monkee Grows Cooler. (Scroll down to third poem. Since this website is now defunct, I'm going to reprint this poem here in its entirety and contact Dave if I can to see if there is another link to it elsewhere)

Monkey fell through a hole in the sky
Exploded on the rocks right by my side
Held that beast to my chest with his body still warm but
Monkey grows cooler
Dead monkey grows cooler

Wound up crab come clacking his claws
Laughing hyena licking at his balls
Bats buzzards rats and worms
Gathering for the feast 'cause
Dead monkey grows cooler
Dead monkey grows cooler

Now I know I was a monkey
Way back when
I was seven year old
Hiding up in that tree
Uncle Bernie with his belt
Down there looking for me
The ground where I landed was rocks and roots
Dead monkey grows cooler
Dead monkey grows cooler

No crawling leaping creatures gonna eat this one
Dark deep and safe
You know I gotta bury him
So I take my belt and tie his neck
To a rusty truck hub
Throw 'em both in the ocean where
Dead monkey grows cooler
Dead monkey grows cold

"Commentary on Dead Monkey Grows Cooler:

"This is certainly my most requested performance poem, and also the only one I get frequent requests to explain. I don't think the explanation matters, but here it is anyway: I begged my girlfriend not to abort our child but she didn't want me and she didn't want it. As the scraping hour approached I had visions of a hole opening up in the ceiling above me and some huge curette-like instrument coming into the room and scraping things from the walls and ceiling. Paintings, chandeliers, fetuses, monkeys fell to the floor around me. Uncle Bernie in the poem is more than simply the abuser of the narrator at seven. He is the abortion doctor as well. The monkey is the youth, the child, the infant, the fetus, the primal source of our derivation. The ocean of course is the womb-our home, our liquid being.

Someone once asked me whether that explanation meant I was anti-abortion. My answer: I believe that abortion is a choice which occurs within a dearth of love. If all of us, especially us men, do a better job of loving women, then women will choose life."

Deirdre Weaver: The Twenty-Year Fear.
Sylvia Plath: Winter Trees. ... (more information and discussion on this one here)
Mina Loy: Love Songs to Johannes. Scroll down to the commentary by Eric Murphy Selinger. His discussion of thwarted maternity and abortion starts with paragraph eleven. The Love Songs are collected in The Lost Lunar Baedeker.

Lesbian icon Joan Larkin has written a number of autobiographical poems about an abortion at age 17. Unfortunately, none of these poems are currently available online. Four of her abortion poems--"Blood", "The Choice", "Open Question" and "The Blackout Sonnets"--appear in A Long Sound. Used copies are available on Amazon. I highly recommend it.

Her parents insisted on the abortion. "The Blackout Sonnets" is a sequence of seven sonnets that describe a date a year after the abortion with "a plausible, tall Jew". When the pregnancy occurred, the mother had said, "You're nothing, if you've lost your precious treasure", referring to her daughter's virginity. The line's repetition lets us see that "precious treasure" means something different for the daughter.

From Poem Four of the Blackout Sonnets:

Fucking put a lid on pain
like nothing since the rubber cone of ether
on my nose and mouth that night last year.

From Poem Six:

...the squat brick house I hated;
my folks had moved here right
after the abortion. September, a soft night,
Uncle's knife scaped out my next-of-kin.
Now I drank anything and slept with everyone.

child of mine, by ashli
we came home, by ashli
i'll never see your tiny hands, by ashli

Freya's poems about abortion

An old poem which reminds Emily of her own "Soldier of a Great War"

A surprising poem about pain by a surprising poet

Two teens' poems that sound like they could be about abortion (at the end of the article)

This poem was sent to us in April 2003. The woman who wrote it had asked the doctor, during the procedure, what would happen to her baby and he replied: "'Your preganacy' will be sent to the hospital and be incinerated with the contaminated waste."
Am I contaminated waste?
In a garbage dump he hung
Arms outstretched, nailed to a cross
Soon to be dead
And his loved ones had no plans to bury him
Only the expectation that wild animals would devour his body
What words can describe the human degradation?
Who can cover such pain?
My God, My God. Why have you forsaken me?
He cries out
What else could he say?

On a table I lay
Legs outstretched, braced at the knees
Contaminated waste, he said
The nurse had called him a doctor
The pregnancy will be sent to the hospital,
And incinerated with the contaminated waste,
This was his sentence.
I imagined myself sent to the hospital to be incinerated with the contaminated waste
How will I fit, I asked myself
What does he mean by pregnancy?
My baby was going to be incinerated with the contaminated waste
What is going to happen to the baby? I had asked him
Sobbing tears
But I really wanted the baby, I cried
More sobbing tears
My husband was sobbing with me
Soon my baby was dead
Dead without a funeral
The man who died outstretched in a garbage dump
Was not annihilated
He is now at the right hand of God
And God knows how I feel
God has adopted me as his daughter
My baby is a child of God
I am a child of God
God has forgiven my sins and cleansed me of all unrighteousness
I am clean
I am a child of God and my baby is with God

~ Vicki

Three baby boys, so precious and sweet
Three baby boys, given to me
Kept in secret, Hidden from all
Three baby boys, so precious and sweet

Dear baby boy, you were the first
Michael Joseph, you were so small
Just four weeks, maybe five
I didn't know your daddy, but he knew me

He raped and left me scared
He came back just one month later
He took me to the clinic
He said I was his daughter

He told me not to tell
He said he'd kill my family
I was 17
Just a junior in high school

Dear baby boy, you were the first
Michael Joseph, you were trusted to me
They took you from me
On November 17th.

Three baby boys, so precious and sweet
Three baby boys, given to me
Kept in secret, Hidden from all
Three baby boys, so precious and sweet

Dear baby boy, you were the second
Jordy Joel JR., your daddy was my best friend
New Years Eve, he was drunk and high
He knew what he wanted, "no" wasn't an option

3 months later, I took the test
I knew was pregnant, but I had to check
I waited two more months
You had been with me 25 weeks

I took another test, just to check
It was positive again
I thought my life was wrecked
I found a clinic and drove myself there

I was confused, I was scared
I had made my decision
I didn't want my family to know
I had just turned 18, you didn't fit my plan

It was June 19, the day they ripped you away
The pain hurt so much, I didn't know what to do
I tried to take my life away
Your daddy killed himself when he found out you were gone

Dear baby boy, you were the second
Jordy Joel JR., I murdered you
Your daddy and your aunt, they left me too
If I could get you back, I would any day

Three baby boys, so precious and sweet
Three baby boys, given to me
Kept in secret, Hidden from all
Three baby boys, so precious and sweet

Dear baby boy, you are the third
Nameless and faceless, hidden from me
Dear baby boy, you have a heart beat
I know you're alive, dependent on me

The questions are whirling,
Confusion, concern, fright and much more
What do I do, where do I turn
God gave you to me, to protect and to love

Raped once more, yet I feel like a whore
I know that God loves you, and I want to also
I know my responsibility,
I wish I could make my decision with ease

I long to hold you, yet I know
I wouldn't be a good enough mom
I couldn't do it on my own
I wish God could tell me what to do

Dear baby boy, you are the third
On December 13th I will hold you in my arms
Dear baby boy, you have a heart beat
Dependent on me, and living you'll stay

Three baby boys, so precious and sweet
Three baby boys, given to me
Kept in secret, hidden from all
Three baby boys, so precious and sweet

Two mistakes made, Two baby boys gone
I can't get you back, but I must move on.
My dear baby boys, please forgive me
In Jesus' arms, I pray you sleep

Michael Joseph (killed by abortion on November 17th, 2005)
Jordy Joel (killed by abortion on June 19, 2006)
Collin James, with me you will live.
--written by their mom, Amanda, who just sent this poem in an email to us June 2008

6/86 To Joshua
To you my unborn child, my son, so much I need to say
To let you know where I was at on that your dying day

I was so full of fear myself, incapable to see
That giving life to you my son was my responsibility.

A child myself, I did not know the options that I had
So I made the choice to let you die although my heart was sad.

My parents had forsaken me disowned me as their own
I could not handle another way for I was all alone.

The nightmare of that day, my son it lingers deep inside
For along with you, my precious child, a part of me has died.

Though many years passed since then, and others I have raised
I never have forgotten you, you’re with my all my days.

You’re the child that I never held, who never got to live
Who never got to feel inside the love I have to give.

The brother my children will never know
The grandson my parents lost
Unwed mother that I was, and you, you paid the cost.

People say that you’ll forget, that time will heal the ache
But I carry the cross of you my son, the child I did forsake.

And on my day of judgment, this cross I’ll bring to Him
Knowing in His mercy ,He forgives me for my sin.

For now within my heart and soul, there always is regret
For killing you, my unborn son, God’s child I never met


Post-Abortive Link and Poem, Mar. 27, 2005

[NOTE: This blog, GaysForLife, seems to be gone now, but I was able to find a 2006 version in the web archives and am reposting it here. Full copyright remains with its original author.]
I'm adding the wonderful post-abortive blog "After Abortion" to my (currently) skimpy blogroll. Hopefully they will return the favor.

Since I'm on the subject of post-abortion feelings, here is a poem I wrote which is included in the most recent newsletter from PLAGAL. I wrote it so as to capture a very distressing experience for me: the "visitation" I experienced (common among sufferers of P.A.S.S.) on the last day of school following my sister's abortion. I am reposting the poem here because the space constraints in the PLAGAL newsletter resulted in its physical deformation (in other words, the line breaks were a little funny) and, while I am deeply grateful to Cecilia Brown for publishing my piece, I would like to take this opportunity to display it as the artist intended.

A brief, tremendous sense of loss
Walked next to me the day
I left my college campus,
Its face a mystery

As was its origin, at the time.
My last exam was done
And yet my thoughts were like the spot
Which blemishes the sun

So certain was I of a girl
Behind me, yet beyond
The world of flesh. I sensed her life
As one that might have been

And so I thought at first she was
The girl I would have had
Had not my sexuality
Prevented it. But God

Responds to prayers outside our own,
I know. That life denied
Was my aborted neice, who begged
Of God to say goodbye

To one who surely would have stood
To save her, at the time,
Had he not been in ignorance
Of nature, and the crime.
This one is from another relative suffering from PAS (Post Abortion Syndrome):
"For Michael, from your sister..."

It seems as though you’re out of place
But maybe this is where you belong.

You’re heaven’s little angel
Looking down on me
You’re what I’d hoped for
For the whole world to see

Mommy, she made a mistake
She thought she did the right thing
It was for her own sake
But later on she realized
Exactly what she’d done

She says she’s sorry that she hurt you
She was completely wrong
But there is nothing she can change
Your body is forever gone

Now we use you as our story
To help others who are on this journey
Fighting for your lives

And we will forever love you
Because you’re God’s perfect joy
You are my brother, and mommy’s little boy.


I am a mechanism, an assembly of various sections
and it is not because the mechanism is working wrongly,
that I am ill,
I am ill because of wounds to the soul,
to the deep emotional self
and the wounds to the soul take a long, long time.
Only time can help
and patience, and a certain difficult repentance,
long, difficult repentance, realization of life's mistakes,
and freeing oneself
from the endless repetition of the mistake
which mankind at large has chosen to sanctify.

a poem by D.H. Lawrence

Out of Despair

(a post-abortion poem)
They had to pull us apart,
but they could never
pull you out of my heart.

They could part flesh
but they could not part love.
Now you fly free like a feather
falling from the wing of a dove.

The grief was almost
too much to bear.
Now I am healing,
coming out of despair.

My child you will always be,
throughout all eternity.
No man can ever take that
away from me.

Our spirits connected
beyond time and space.
No surgeon's knife could sever
our cosmic embrace.

You are in heaven,
my angel, my guide
ever present at my side.

A heavenly reunion
awaits us now;
because with God
all things are possible
that's how.

thoughts conceived and captured on Saturday Feb. 23, 2002

by Carol A. Foster.

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