07.026.2019
Weekly poem on Trump Presidency

 

JENNIFER FRANKLIN

May

It happens, slowly, while we are in the kitchen preparing cannellini beans and kale. The smoke alarm is about to go off. The dog is pacing; my daughter is crying. She cannot tell us what hurts. She has no words to describe her suffering. Maybe none of us do. I was born twenty-eight days before Roe v. Wade was decided. On paper, I always had the right to choose. Pregnant at twenty-six, in the hospital with hyperemesis (the same condition that killed Charlotte Bronte) an IV drip protruded from my right arm. As doctors tried to stop my vomiting and weight loss, my mother and my husband talked me out of the abortion. Fear was their shared weapon— he threatened me, she predicted he would stop loving me. I had the baby; he stopped loving me anyway.

The news is an active volcano. We listen but we go about our lives. We sign petitions, make phone calls, march, send online donations. Yet we eat the kale and beans, curl or straighten our hair, bring the dog for long walks in the park. We know where this is headed. We hold each other’s hands, make promises. We still believe we are good but we cannot sleep without ear plugs or pills.

The new season of the Handmaid’s Tale is about to start so reporters ask Margaret Atwood about abortion legislation. “Once you take your first breath, [it’s] out the window with you. And, it is really a form of slavery to force women to have children that they cannot afford and then to say that they have to raise them.”

As a child, I read on the swing-set with my dog as my mother made dinner. She never liked cooking but I didn’t know that then. The sun set over the bike path and I thought if I could find a way out of the suburbs to the city, I would be happy. The dog’s head on my lap and my book were my comfort. I live in the city now. I have my books and another dog’s head in my lap. My daughter is crying. The doctors cannot help her. Her father is a surgeon; he refuses to pay for her once she turns twenty-one though she will never be able to wash herself or live alone. Her father hasn’t seen her in two years. She will be a life-long toddler. I love her so he still controls me.

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Jennifer Franklin (AB Brown, MFA Columbia) is the author of two full-length collections, most recently No Small Gift (Four Way Books, 2018). Her poetry has appeared widely in print and online including in Blackbird, Boston Review, Gettysburg Review, Guernica,LAR, Paris Review, Plume, “poem-a-day” on poets.org, Prairie Schooner, and Sixth Finch. She teaches manuscript revision at the Hudson Valley Writers Center, where she serves as Program Director. She lives in New York City. Visit her at jenniferfranklinpoet.com.

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