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A Book of Life in Ten Parts

Posted Sep 13 2010 3:41pm

A poem by Alana I. Capria 

1
There was no blue mark and then there was one. I thought in order: douche,
hanger, poison, stairs. Get it out. I pushed a fingertip against my navel
to feel for the fetus. This solid mass was already absorbed into my skin.
It would take a fillet knife to separate the silver skin from my own. When
I bled brown blood in a hotel room while on vacation, I thought
miscarriage. I cried into the dirty shower curtains and tried to hold onto
my uterus.
2
I suffered nightly. My child had a demon’s body and no face. I watched it
bend backwards and give birth to plastic dolls that squeaked mama while
falling into cracks between old floorboards. The child grew a rabbit’s
face and kicked the back of my seat in the car while laughing. Aren’t you
happy we have her, I kept asking the driver but he choked through his
laryngitis. The baby grew scars and porcelain cheeks. It kept running
towards the sugar bowl I kept at one end of the closet. Stay away. I have
to leave you, I kept saying until dawn.
3
During the day, I kept hearing children’s voices. They came from closet
doors and the basement stairs. I stayed in one room, my hair in my face,
and my hands pressed against my mouth. I screamed at the stroke of every
hour. Something followed me when I turned my back. I heard the child say,
you were the best mother you could be.
4
The woman on television walked through a tunnel of aborted fetuses. They
were monstrous, red and yellow tones set against the throbbing pink that
should have been the female vaginal canal. When she came out and held the
child after walking through a cliff-side of hungry corpses, the girl
asked, Why did you let me go? In my ear, a disembodied voice asked the
same question. I would have hurt you, I whispered back .
5
I gave a metropolitan church my baby’s name so that someone else could
remember her. In return, they emailed me a word processed certificate of
inclusion in their Book of Life. Later, they sent me emails urging
attendance at various pro-life rallies. Then my grandmother’s church began
a group that begged divine intervention for every woman contemplating
abortion. Will they take care of the babies the mothers were forced into
having, I asked while ripping pages out of hymnals around the church. I
counted matches and considered burning crosses on their judging altars.
6
My grandmother said that children come into the world with a loaf of bread
under their arms. It was a Cuban saying. She wanted to have a reason to
add the great prefix to her title. She and my mother stared at the
ultrasound picture with me. It is still so small, my mother said. I did
not tell them I had already scheduled an appointment with the closest
clinic. They envisioned carrying around a curly-headed baby while I looked
into the mirror and saw my arms burdened with dirty diapers instead of
pens. My child’s bread was already stale.
7
The fiancé saw the baby first while I lay on the OBGYN’s table with a
paper gown spread over my breasts. The ultrasound screen flashed with
heartbeat. I poked my finger at it. The doctor kept smiling and I felt
badly telling her I was not planning on keeping it. She gave me the glossy
picture and I imagined sitting on the basement steps and drinking cups of
bleach. I’m crazy, I would have told the doctors in the hospital. I can’t
have a baby when I want to kill myself. I can’t go through with this if
it’s already met the poison.
8
Then I heard the heartbeat. I was alone. The doctor put the stethoscope to
my ears and I heard the frantic drumming from my uterus. I felt relieved.
I was afraid of carrying around a cadaver unknowingly. I simply wanted to
fall asleep full and wake up empty. When the brown blood came weeks later
after I finally said I was having the abortion, another doctor would not
let me hear for the heartbeat again. I could not beg while naked and cold.
9
My child knew the scars on my legs and wrists, the macabre thoughts
preoccupying my time, and the suddenness of a manic temper plaguing
daylight hours. Her loss would have been easier if the fiancé had been
there. He could not be and so I gave her a new life. In words, I devoted
myself to her without fear of hungry and soiled sobs. I read pregnancy
pamphlets and magazines to know what she was like. I would not have liked
her larger. I would not have cared once her nine-month self passed out of
me.
10
I accepted an IV while tearing and fell asleep. I worried about the pain,
not the loss. I had never had anything stick my veins. My dreams were
pink. I tasted anesthesia in the back of my throat. I woke and thought of
water. I wrote a series of poems and hand-sewed the binding. The needle
pricked my fingers several times. My fiancé took me to the Hudson River
at midnight. We stared at the skyline until the book dropped from my hand.
The tide flipped through the pages. I imagined our daughter reading my
confessions and nodding her forgiveness. I would have hurt you, I told her
again and she believed me.

Alana I. Capria (born 1985) has an MFA in Creative Writing at Fairleigh Dickinson University. She resides in Northern New Jersey with her fiancé and rabbits. Her chapbooks and links to other publications can be found at http://alanaicapria.com .

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