by Frances Payne Adler

Page 7

Dickinson wrote her world. I was writing mine. Emily Dickinson gave me dignity. I could take my work seriously. I began to work with a photographer, taking our poems and photographs as an exhibition about the homeless to galleries, to state capitol buildings, and then to the Senate in Washington, D.C. "I ceded, I stopped being Theirs - "

I began to write moments that my body responded to. Trusting my body to be wise in ways my coopted mind wasn't. My mind was being told to write intellectual publishable poems, my body was responding to excluded women, disenfranchised people. The fist I felt in my stomach when I met so many women unable to find prenatal care. It was not OK that we were the only industrialized country outside of South Africa where millions of pregnant women who wanted care couldn't find it. I did another poetry-photography exhibition. This poem is called "Joshua":

I could hold you, Joshua, in the palm of my life
cup my forty years around your hanging flesh
and say, what have we done.

I could hold you, tell you lies:

that all babies are born as you are
bound to breathing machines
their bodies weighing less than two pounds
small enough to fit a hand

that all babies are born equal,
that I can look you in the eye
this is no lie:
that the moon of your birth night
tracked your mother from hospital to hospital
spilled its cool light on insurance ledgers
weighing your worth

that her fertile heart froze to sand
each time she was turned away

that at twenty, I was a nurse,
starched and stupid with notions of night sirens
unloading pain at emergency room doors
as a call to care

I hold you, Joshua, in my palm,
your chest blows the breathing machine
and the walls of my denial tumble

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