We parked in a rutted lot by a stripped car
lying on its side like a felled elephant. Climbed
metal stairs lit by a string of fairy lights to a door
that didn’t look like a door. On the other side
voices, laughing. On the other side, women
in a makeshift waiting room, nervous, drinking tea.
The photographer took us one at a time into her studio:
bare floors, tripod, American flag tacked to the wall:
red, white and blue. She talked to us about our bodies,
the laying on of hands where hands had no business,
the business of selling women’s bodies. We nodded,
stripped, stood on her mark, posed. It was cold,
we tried not to shake. Breathe, she said, look at me
with your entire body, whole self. Staring into her lens,
we shook off the unwanted, accidently-on-purpose,
absolutely-on-purpose, the one on the bus, the one
supposed to protect us, the one whose face we never
saw, who called us stupid, said it’s only a joke, why
can’t we take a joke? Don’t smile if you don’t
want to, she said, pressing the shutter. We didn’t.
Roe v Wade means hands off—my body, my rights my voice. Roe v Wade means I stand in a line of women that stretches from horizon to horizon, and, thanks to their courage, determination, persistence and resistance, access to safe abortion isn’t a privilege available only to those who can afford it. Roe v Wade means all babies are wanted babies. Roe v Wade means I can say yes, and I can say no. No one else can decide what’s best for me, my body, my life.
This poem is stunning from beginning to end, but especially at the end. From “We shook off the unwanted…”: to “the one whose face we never saw…”, these lines shuck the burden of restraint that comes with omitting one’s experience with harassment and instead embracing the righteous anger that accompanies such an ordeal.
Bio and Links
Dryanksy’s second book, Grass Whistle (Salmon Poetry, Ireland) received the 2014 Massachusetts Book Award for poetry. Her first, How I Got Lost So Close to Home, won the New England/New York Award from Alice James. Individual poems appear in a variety of journals, including Barrow Street, Harvard Review, New England Review, Orion and The Women’s Review of Books. She was also an Associate at the Five College Women’s Studies Research Center, where she looked at the impact of motherhood on women poets, and she has a blog called, Pokey Mama, where she tells the story of her struggle to navigate the territory of mother-poet. She is currently the Poet Laureate of Northampton, MA, and assistant director of the Culture, Brain & Development Program at Hampshire College.