Browsing Tag

choice

Abortion, Guest Posts

The Boy With No Name

April 14, 2017
winter

By Carmen Calatayud

When my son died
a thousand miles away
I made my arms a cradle.
~Kelle Groom, from the poem “Marguerite”

In the dream, it’s wintertime and I hate winter. I’m scared of the cold in the dream as well as in real life because my body can never get warm enough.

There is a hill with a naked tree, its limbs shivering. There is snow and wind and a dead grey sky, as though winter will never end. I’m not sure I can survive if there’s no escape from the cold.

Then a voice: I know this is the winter of your discontent. I have not forsaken you.

I wake up sobbing and realize I was weeping in my dream. I’m weeping into my pillow even though there’s bright desert sunlight streaming into this bedroom in Tucson. This voice, a mixture of Shakespeare and Jesus, is unlike anything I’ve ever heard in a dream. I’m convinced it was the voice of some deity or higher power that hasn’t forgotten me. With a broken voice, choppy from the sobs, I tell my boyfriend about the dream.

This dream comes one week before I learn the reason I’ve been feeling so sick for the past 2 ½ months, much more than usual. I’m pregnant.

***

When I was the moon, I wasn’t whole. Just a blue half-circle drifting through the sky. After I sloughed off pieces of myself I became a quarter moon, a sliver of light that gingerly rocks back and forth like a porch swing.

This is what I remember after the abortion—just a sliver of me being left, and a sliver of a child being sucked out of my uterus with a vacuum that hurt more than I could have imagined. It hurt so badly that I asked the doctor to stop. He couldn’t. I got dizzy from the sharpness of the puncture and suction.

My son was sucked out of me and spit into the sky. I couldn’t imagine where else he could go, so I saw his pieces in the Sonoran Desert darkness.

Each small star was a spark of my boy, glitter above me every night.

***

I go to the doctor because I feel sick, more than I usually do from what is chronic fatigue syndrome. Since the doctor is concerned about an ovarian cyst, she does a sonogram. I look at the screen as she drags the gel-covered wand back and forth across my skin, until a black and white picture appears.

“You’re pregnant.”

“Are you sure?” I’m stunned and feel my cheeks burn from the shame that I’m pregnant and didn’t know it. I’ve been nauseous for weeks, and had missed my period, but my period was already erratic. I thought it was the flu.

It’s a few days before the 12-week cut off for legal abortions, so the doctor reminds me that I have to decide quickly.

“I’ll support you whatever you decide,” she reassures me, her voice steady, warm. Then she pauses and I hold my breath.

“But you need to know that this is going to be a difficult pregnancy.”

I imagine what it would be like to hold my son. What he would look like, how he would sound. An August-born boy. I consider who his father is: a father of two young children who need and deserve attention, a heavy drinker, cocaine user and gambler who insists he is my soul mate. All of these addictions wash through my insides and create a pool that never drains. My body is heavy with this water, swollen and scared.

***

Little boy, if circumstances were different, I might have had you. I might have weathered being sick for nine months straight. But I didn’t believe I could survive what my life had become and hold you above it.

I sit outside the apartment door on a warm winter night in the desert. The stars are out. I see pieces of you float freely and sparkle in this universal life of yours.

You race across the Milky Way while my life stands still on Earth.

I’m stale and pale white, afraid of your father, an empty future, and the shrinking amount of change in my jar.

Poet and writer Carmen Calatayud is the daughter of immigrants: a Spanish father and Irish mother. Her book In the Company of Spirits was a runner-up for the Academy of American Poets Walt Whitman Award and a finalist for the Andrés Montoya Book Prize. Recently her poetry has appeared in Poet Lore, Origins and Cutthroat. The Boy with No Name is an excerpt from her memoir. Visit carmencalatayud.com. 

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Abortion, Guest Posts

My First Abortion

November 29, 2016
abortion

By Cheryl Diane Kidder

“Under the skin, an old order begins to shift… The first signs of change are as
imperceptible as the order itself, an order which has been presumed
as part of reality, part of the earth upon which one puts a foot,
or the step itself, immutable, inarguable.”

– from A Chorus of Stones, Susan Griffin

I paid for my first abortion with a Visa. I had to. Planned Parenthood didn’t have an installment plan and in 1983, when I was 24 years old, I didn’t have the two hundred dollars in cash to give them. My limit on that card – my only credit card other than my Macy’s card – was five hundred dollars. I’d just mailed in a payment so I was pretty sure I had enough credit left.

The entire procedure, start to finish, was two hundred dollars. This included the procedure itself, and one follow up visit, a week later, if needed.

It didn’t occur to me to do anything but pay for the entire thing myself. I had no way of getting in touch with the other responsible party and even if I did, I wouldn’t have. I did have some vague recollection of his face. He was tall, but not very bright. And though I lived in San Francisco, the first reports of AIDs and HIV and how it was transmitted seemed to only pertain to certain communities, communities I was not a part of. The thought of a deadly illness felt like the faraway bleating of sheep, two valleys away and impossible to hear clearly. It was still only 1983, which at the time was much closer to the innocence of 1970s than to the horrible realization we all had to face after August 1985 when Rock Hudson died. Continue Reading…

Abortion, Birth Control, Choice, Guest Posts

The Choice

July 20, 2016
Abortion

By Teri Carter

On January 22, 1973, by a vote of 7-2, the Supreme Court overturned a Texas law and made abortion legal in the United States. Roe v. Wade stated that a woman had the choice to end a pregnancy in early months without legal restriction, and with restrictions in later months. This ruling was based on her right to privacy.

In the years before Roe v. Wade, my mother gave birth to 3 children: in 1965, 1968 and 1972. Her first 2 pregnancies began without a husband, which in the 1960s meant she had to get married twice to men she should never have even considered marrying. My mother did not have the option of ending her pregnancies. She also did not have access to birth control, though Enovid, the first birth control pill approved by the FDA, had been on the market since 1960, and by 1965 was being used by 6.5 million American women.

The Pill was only accessible to married women, and would not be legally available to single women for 7 more years. The Pill would never be approved by the Catholic Church. Continue Reading…

Forgiveness, Guest Posts, Pregnancy, The Hard Stuff

How to Get Through It.

December 4, 2014

beauty-hunting-jen-logo-black

By Jillian M. Phillips.

Step One

Two days after Christmas, realize your period is late. Triple-check the calendar, just to be sure. Ask a friend to drive you to the Planned Parenthood. When you get there, keep your head down, hoping no one you know sees you. You don’t want to explain that you’re neurotic about your flow and too poor to buy an eight-dollar pregnancy test.

When the doctor comes in and confirms that you’re pregnant, hide your smile. Try to appear appropriately distressed because you’re not married. Nod along to everything she says. Pretend that you are interested in “Options.” Accept every pamphlet gratefully and solemnly, as if each one contains a sacred promise.

When your friend drives you home, share the news with her. Allow her to see your joy, but don’t tell anyone else. You know how hard your life has been lately. Your rent is way overdue. You’ve received two disconnection notices from the power company. You don’t want people telling you that your baby is a mistake. You don’t want it to be a problem people tell you to fix. Rationalize that you have eight more months to be in a better apartment in a better neighborhood. Your boyfriend, X, has a new job. If you watch your budget carefully, you can save enough to get a nicer place.

 

Step Two

Write in your journal about how excited you are. You know this baby will be a boy. Name him Caleb. Picture him with black hair and gray-blue eyes. See him in your mind as a voracious reader with a contemplative nature. He will be a poet. He will have a strong will. He will speak softly, but firmly, and use literary quotes in everyday conversation.

Decide that you are unwilling to allow X any say in this pregnancy, because he will tell you to get rid of it. He’ll tell you that you are financially unstable, barely able to take care of yourself, not ready. Write in your journal that you will wait until your second trimester, when you can’t legally terminate the pregnancy. It’s only two months away. You can keep your mouth shut for that long.

 

Step Three

Call yourself an idiot for leaving your journal open on the kitchen table while you were cooking dinner. Curse your stupidity at not putting it away in your nightstand, where it belonged, instead of letting X find it. Now he knows you’re pregnant. He tells you exactly what you thought he would, and is even angrier because he knows you were planning to lie to him.

X tells you to “do what’s right.” He reminds you that you have always been Pro- Choice. Curse yourself again for not having strong enough faith in your religion to hide behind. You have no argument other than that you’ve already come up with a name. The moment you rolled the syllables around in your mouth and felt them on your tongue, pregnancy ceased to be an abstract concept. Caleb is no longer a scientific term— embryo, zygote—he’s a person to you.

Listen to X’s argument. Let him pace around the living room as he rants on and on that you can barely put food in your own mouths, let alone a child’s. In a self-satisfied, fuck-you tone of voice, tell him that you are planning to breastfeed, which negates his argument. Casually add that he was the one who didn’t put on a condom. This is his fault as much as yours. He ignores this. You always forget to take your pill on time. One simple thing and you can’t even do that. Mutter something about subconscious intentions.

Continue Reading…

Awe & Wonder

Extinction is a Choice.

July 29, 2013

This butterfly was believed extinct for 11 years before entomologists walking across the site spotted one fluttering ahead of them. The Palos Verdes Blue.

I hear this story about this nearly extinct butterfly and an ex-gangster, just released form prison, and how he’s out there saving her, daily.

He’s there by five a.m. with his big nets and his teams of butterfly catchers.

He confides in the dark gray wings of the females and whispers into the males’ upper wing surfaces. The blue quiver, coddled in between his fingertips.

This, his gentle prey.

This is how I imagine it: A young black man brings them together to reproduce. Just watch him talk to these fragile winged things. He tells them what prison was like, what it feels like to lose a game of cards and to have to deal with a child molester for this small misfortune.

It was business, not pleasure he tells the world’s rarest butterfly.

His belief that he has found something bigger than God. Finally.

Extinction is a choice, he tells the butterflies.

Gently, he prays.

Extinction is a choice, the butterfly says.

In 1903, in Letters to a Young Poet, Rainer Maria Rilke, “Things are not all so comprehensible and expressible as one would mostly have us believe; most events are inexpressible, taking place in a realm which no word has ever entered, and more inexpressible than all else are works of art, mysterious existences, the life of which, while ours passes away, endures.”

These mysterious existences. Aren’t we all mysterious existences floating through life with our diagnoses and our personalities and shoe sizes?

In his letter, Rilke asks the young poet if he must write? And if the answer is Yes, I must, Rilke says for the young poet to build his life according to this necessity.

I think of the necessity of saving those butterflies. But first, the seeing of them. For ten years they were believed to not exist anymore in the world. They were literally invisible to the human eye.

I wonder how much of our lives go unseen? Unnoticed? the butterfly asks.

I was at a party last weekend where I felt invisible. I flitted in my butterfly-like way through the layers of people staring vacantly into space as if cake, or someone better were always on the way.

Until someone joked with me, did I slip back into my body, did I realize I was not invisible. It took that man, however, in his wire-rimmed glasses and white sneakers to make me a person again. Then, bodies bumping into mine and excuse me and hello and there you are! but before that: invisible. It took one pair of eyes to see me and I was no longer extinct.

Imagine that! Extinct to the world until someone spots you and says you exist. Oh, sweet butterfly, I get you. I get you in your gossamer wings. I get with with your desire to go on and not disappear.

How much of what we see is a choice? the butterfly asks.

I remember one of the guys that used to work in the kitchen with me at the restaurant. We worked together for years. Sweet guy, this chef. Covered in tattoos and a hard-core gangster but one of the sweetest men I had ever met. Always laughing. Always making me little plates of food when I got busy with tables and hadn’t had a chance to eat.

He’d wear these long sleeved shirts to cover his tattoos but if you knew anything at all about gang life, you wouldn’t want to cross paths with him. His tattoos meant business.

Extinction is a choice.

One night, after work, we were drinking on the patio. I asked him about prison as I sipped my red wine. He had tequila and a cigarette.

He told me that when he’d lost in a game of cards he had to rape a child molester. I remember wanting to unhear that information so badly that I swallowed the rest of my wine in one whole gulp. My sweet chef. My sweet tattooed gangster tomato chopping chef. He didn’t want to talk about it.

It was business, he’d said.

What are the things that must be done? the butterfly asks.

It was business. The survival business. We are all in the business of survival.

Rilke, in his Letters, over and over asks this young poet Must you create?

How can something be believed to be extinct? Then one day, there it is, fluttering away in front of you like it had been there all along.

Maybe all these parts of us are always there. Dormant until the necessity arises in us and we are willing to grab our nets and go out into the wild with them.

I must do this. I must create. I must not let myself disappear.

Extinction is a choice.

Rilke says “ Then take that destiny upon yourself and bear it, its burden and its greatness, without ever asking what recompense might come from outside. For the creator must be a world for himself and find everything in himself and in Nature to whom he has attached himself.”

So this young kid, this ex-gangster, practices preservation every day on the coast south of Los Angeles, in a shrinking patch of coastal scrub community.
He attaches himself to this piece of nature by the sea, where he thinks not without irony that so much of life is chance and through what delicate slip in luck did he get to stand out here, with sweat in his eyes and a butterfly in his hand when he could be non-existent? A non-person. What hair-like accident allowed this to occur?

The stone’s throw, the butterfly catcher, this unequivocal beauty in watching hands rove over rocks, over winged creatures.
The renewed hopes for survival.
The transformation from the pupae into adult butterflies.

I will not disappear, he tells the endangered creature. Nor will you.

We are here, the butterfly says.

Extinction is a choice.

Both of them out there in the wild, waiting to see what life will allow them to keep, what will return.

trina-paulus_quotes_butterfly

~jennifer pastiloff