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Life-viewing poetry and prose

Words betray the truth


Life-viewing poetry and prose
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This is my last review page in WORLD. Thank you, thank you, kind readers. If you want further reading recommendations, please follow me on Twitter, where I will post brief reviews. Go to @MarvinOlasky.

Over the years readers have given me great feedback. My October page on Choice Words: Writers on Abortion (Haymarket Books, 2020) generated requests for more poetry that reveals pro-life yearning even when it comes in a “pro-choice” collection. So here’s one from Judith Arcana: “That baby I didn’t have, / baby who couldn’t make me laugh— / applesauce upside down on her head; / couldn’t make me cry— / taking his first step right off the porch.”

Many of the poems moved me. Diane di Prima: “Your face dissolving in water, like wet clay / washed away, like a rotten water lily …? forgive, forgive / that the cosmic waters do not turn from me … /your ivory teeth in the half light / your arms / flailing about. that is you / age nine months / sitting up & trying to stand / cutting teeth. … / a caramel candy sticking in your teeth / you, age three … / your pulled tooth in my hand / (age six).”

Wendy Chin-Tanner, poetry editor at The Nervous Breakdown: “Bone-scraping / labor is nothing like / the pangs that wracked me after / … the vacuum emptied my womb and what / spilled from me was bleak and nacreous / for years I was tethered to terror / … my body turns itself inside out.”

Valley Haggard: “I cried the whole plane ride home, suspended in the sky above our country, freed from the cluster of molecules, the magical cells. … The hydrocodone and valium did not take away the pain but wrapped it in a flimsy layer of gauze. … Sometimes I still turn over names for the child that could have been, but I never come up with one that is good.”

Teri Cross Davis: “No amount of dilation and suction / hemorrhaging and fever / could’ve erased you or / the pulp of your carved initials / made with the solid grasp / of a still forming hand / science tells me / you are still whispering/ inside my bones.” Leslie Monsour: “As light as ashes, light as sighs; a small / Bright, sleeping bird that dies and dies and dies.”

Lucille Clifton, former poet laureate of Maryland and winner of the National Book Award: “The time i dropped your almost body down / down to meet the waters under the city / and run one with the sewage to the sea / what did i know about waters rushing back / what did i know about drowning / or being drowned.”

Ann Townsend: “Into my hand you swam, / faceless face curled in a puddle. … / [I] slipped you into a soft wrapper, / kissed the wrapper, / tucked you beneath the roots of a tree. … / I pressed my foot down / to close your door. / Of course I loved you, / even as I set my heel against the dirt.”

This is a volume of advocacy for abortion.

Bookmarks

Meera Shah’s You’re the Only One I’ve Told: The Stories Behind Abortion (Chicago Review Press, 2020) says “abortion has a safety rating of 99 percent.” But if we count everyone on the surgical table, the safety rating is 49.5 percent. Shah says “secrecy about an abortion results in isolation and a lack of social support.” True, but let’s flip it: Isolation and a lack of social support (particularly from the dad) lead to abortion. That’s one reason pro-life pregnancy resource centers that build new relationships are so important.

Diana Foster’s The Turnaway Study (Scribner, 2020) reports on a survey of reasons for aborting: “not financially prepared” and “interferes with future opportunities” are frequent. Those answers point to the need to reduce financial pressures to abort. But think about this statement by a woman with a husband and a 10-year-old: “We weren’t struggling, but … my daughter was a figure skater, which was quite expensive. … I felt like I wanted to give one kid everything that I possibly could.”

Everything but a sister or brother. —M.O.


Marvin Olasky

Marvin is the former editor in chief of WORLD, having retired in January 2022, and former dean of World Journalism Institute. He joined WORLD in 1992 and has been a university professor and provost. He has written more than 20 books, including Reforming Journalism.

@MarvinOlasky

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