Terri Kirby Erickson

 

 

The Abortion

 

“No woman has an abortion for fun.”—Elizabeth Joan Smith

 

 

You could die, the doctor said, if you have this baby and death
Held no appeal. So I let them hoist my pregnant teenage body

Onto a cold table like a tenderloin that needed cleaving. And
Behold, I was delivered of a fetus whose sex I will never

Know while my legs shook the stirrups, the sound they made
Like rattling chains in a haunted house. You should have  

Considered the consequences of your actions, said the multi-
Tasking medic vacuuming my uterus like a dirty rugas if

A good scolding was what a girl like me deserved—the same
Girl who made straight A’s in school and never gave her

Parents a moment’s trouble. Yet my only child would never
Have been born save for the son or daughter sacrificed so I

Could go on living, this piece of past lodged in my memory
Like a splinter needled out now so forgiveness can find it.

 

 

 

Red Lion

 

 

Oh red-haired boy I did not love, with your pockmarked
face and barrel-chested body—you shucked me like an
ear of corn at the Red Lion bar in Booneville after the

patrons went home and it was your turn to close the place
down. I can’t believe I let you do it but I cared nothing

for myself back then and even less for you, so what did
it matter? I remember how you spread a bar towel on

the beer-splattered rug to protect my bare skin—that you
whispered my name so many times, it sounded like a poem
you say out loud until you memorize all the words. And

afterward, when you buttoned my shirt and zipped my
jeans, your big, clumsy hands trembled like paint shakers.

At least you didn’t tell me you loved me except maybe
you loved me a little because your bloodshot eyes in the

neon light of the Budweiser sign hanging over a row of
half-empty liquor bottles, held a jigger-full of something
close to tenderness that I can still, on a good day, feel.

 

 

 

 

Family Album

 

 

Six years after my brother’s death,
I took this beach trip
photograph. My mother,
resplendent in her black maillot,

sits on a towel beside my daughter,
who wears a bright red
bathing suit

with white polka-dots,
a fluted ruffle flaring above her plump,
three-year old thigh. Patterns
formed by shoe prints and crab

feet, dog paws and bucket rims,
surround them in the sand,
while waves, captured in mid-crash,
curl in the distance.

My child, half-turned, squinting
in the sun, flashes a mouthful of perfect
baby teeth. She clasps

her chubby hands, sticky with salt
and grit, as my mother smiles,
the sorrow in her eyes like blackened
wicks, smoking.

 

 

 

 

 

Terri Kirby Erickson

 

Terri Kirby Erickson is the author of four collections of poetry, including A Lake of Light and Clouds. Her work appears in Asheville Poetry ReviewThe Writer’s AlmanacPoet’s Market, and many others. Awards include the Joy Harjo Poetry Prize and a Nautilus Book Award. For more information, visitwww.terrikirbyerickson.com

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