The Clock Turns Back
Birth mother, my first mother.
Small, startled breaths.
How did you learn
you were pregnant?
In the cruel November air,
did you pray, hand on womb,
your unmarried body?
I imagine delighted
rebellion had risen inside you,
far from home,
in the hours, days, months before.
Freedom. Freedom. Freedom.
Ticked a clock.
Until it stopped.
Did you hear that year the death list of Washington women included1:
- Mother of three who died during an abortion attempted by a 45-year-old practical nurse, police said.
- 26-year old who died of an air embolism after an attempted abortion, police said.
- Suburban Maryland housewife, 26, who died from an infected abortion, police said.
This was popular:
a rubber catheter attached
to a straightened wire coat hanger.
\ ˈchȯis \
: the opportunity or power to choose between two or more possibilities : the opportunity or power to make a decision
as a young woman, I carried
a sign to the Mall, “We Won’t Go Back.”
Finger on the slim spoke of the clock.
Watch it roughly pushed
back. An hour,
a decade. Three.
Once there was a lively woman-girl
who could have done any thing.
Then there was not.
I would have understood
if you’d made a different choice.
1 Elisabeth Stevens, ”When abortion was illegal: A 1966 Post series revealed how women got them anyway,” The Washington Post, June 9, 2019.
Kyle Potvin’s debut full-length poetry collection is Loosen (Hobblebush Books, 2021). Her chapbook, Sound Travels on Water, won the Jean Pedrick Chapbook Award. She’s a two-time finalist for the Howard Nemerov Sonnet Award. Poems have appeared in Bellevue Literary Review, Ecotone, and The New York Times.