poem
Volume 28, Number 2

Because of the Clinic, I Am Alive to Tell You This

I have come here almost alone, with only my self
and my dying baby.  It is too early to be this sick.
No woman could survive a pregnancy like this.
There is no crowded waiting room here,
and yet the room is so full of energy and emotion 
that the air seems compressed and hard to breathe.
 
A woman is crying, sitting at the edge of her chair,
her head bowed.  In front of her a man speaks
in a language I once tried to learn but never did.
He towers over her like a fierce giant
waving his arms, his legs spread like a boxer.
One does not need to understand the words.
If she keeps the baby, he will kill her.
                
They call me back, gently, to a calm and quiet room.
I sit beside a woman draped in scarves with a religion
I have heard of but do not know much about.  
While I wait for the ibuprofen to take effect 
we talk like old friends, like we are sitting in the living room
sipping tea in the afternoon.  She has five babies.
She has nothing left for another one.  She has no more
to give, or really, nothing more to be taken.
If her husband finds out, he will kill her.
 
There is a little stir from the nurses over how
weak and swollen and sick I am.  They determine 
I am well enough for the procedure.  I am
comforted and cared and loved though
this lesser of two tragedies.  
 
This is not what I feared it would be.
I am not judged.  I am not injured by this act.  I have 
arrived here already wounded and in need of this care.
There is a saving grace here.   There is an undisguised truth here.
 
Here with one woman who would be killed for keeping the child,
one that would be killed for not having anything left for another child,
and I who would be killed by a pregnancy no child could survive.
Here is not a choice we have made.  
Here is where our lives are saved.
This is life.


—Ann Kestner