The Birth Controllers

Daily we push tiny pills through their thin foil backing.
We swallow the calendar, counting out days,
counting blessings with each bleeding.
In our dreams we crave ligation of the uterine tubes:
scalpels dancing with clamps, festooned with beaded knots
of chromic gut. We fantasize rituals of ablation
and wake to the smell of cauterized flesh.
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 a daughter
and passing on the disease of woman. Call it
an autoimmune disorder. Call it anorexia nervosa.
Call it endometriosis. The body turns against
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 controllers.
The ones who preside in the tiny windowless rooms
where a woman has decided she must do it.
When she backs down the hall to await her confinement,
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 fingers
while the unspeaking doctor stretches and empties her.
And we 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 show
she should not fear hurting us. This is what we do,
from our strength. We are bystanders to the necessary pain.

1997 Jessica Manke

Jessica 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).

Click on back for more poems.
To share your poem, send email to stories -AT-

"It's a matter of taking the side of the weak against the strong, something that the best people have always done."
Harriet Beecher Stowe

Birth Control Comparison - alll methods Abortion Info from Feminist Women's Health CenterShare your story
Poetry and Prose - by women about their reproductive lives Teens HealthResources for Women of Color
Feminist Abortion Clinics Real Life Abortion Stories from teens Questions and Answers