Tuesday, September 15, 2015

What Have I Done?

By Shannon Leigh

She stands
Hands shaking
Lips moving in prayer
to a god they tell her is not listening
Outside it is cold and the faces of her attackers
line the cement walls like bathroom tiles
She has come to kill her baby.
That is what they say
Holding pictures of cut up stillbirths
Trying to tell her the thing inside her is shaped like us
when two days earlier on the ultrasound
a nurse showed her the gills.
She does not need anyone to tell her
it is more than a clump of cells
At eight weeks she already knows her daughter’s colors
Baby blue and bright pink
Like infant fireworks.
The shape of nose and eyes so very familiar
this child,
who would grow up to welfare and gun shots
asking why thunder seems so close
and where daddy was.
She stands
and prays.
Daughter,
Look away from this world and be with God
There is no mercy in the streets for little girls
and I would not be able to protect you from monsters
I was twelve when my mother failed me
They called her murderer
Her heart stretches out
and touches tendrils that one day could be human
I have been there.
Stood there before protesters
telling me God wants my baby to be born
while I remember the faces of the children I worked with
seven to a bedroom
eating rice for three days and starving for four
the children too old or so-called troubled to find homes
whose homeless mothers birthed them on cardboard boxes
and cut the cords with a broken vial.
Oh yes
The world surely needs more babies
whose parents would not be able to educate them
because their own educations were cut short
who know daddy as the man who hurt my mommy
who ever knew they were anything less than wanted.
Children know
They flounder under the weight of their parents’ bitter yokes
and grow to question their very worth
My clump of cells would grow up seeing my dead dreams
Twining around my arms like vines
holding me down to a life I could learn to love
But that is not why God made a heart
strong enough to make my own decisions.
They call me reckless and irresponsible
A slut and and a murderer
When abstinence education makes women believe their boyfriends
when they say you can’t get pregnant the first time
I pumped chemicals into my body for years
skin browning from untested carcinogens
Condoms break
And despite the rhetoric of fundamentalist men
afraid of the sacred
sex us beautiful
If done right and consciously
What drove me to this
they said God can help manage
But last time I checked
It’s been thousands of years since lost children
were rained down manna
And if your God knows me
like I believe He does
Fully and intimately
Exposed and unworthy
My beginning and my ending
He already knows what I am doing
Do not question your God’s omnipotence
in my name
It is blasphemy
to say you know more about my body
than the Creator of it
I stand
I will bear no child
who will think love means war
who will tell women making the choice to save two lives
that they are whores
Who belive God created the universe in seven days
and man can interpret it in four
I stand
And for the women who should stand proudly
but shove secrets into boxes
I ask
What have we done
that you wouldn’t have?


To hear a reading of this poem, go here.

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