#ThrowbackThursday Poetry: With Those Bulging Eyes

It’s Throwback Thursday once again, and in the spirit of Halloween and all things fearful, I’m revisiting this terrifying poem, originally published in fēlan magazine’s fear issue in November 2015.

“With Those Bulging Eyes” is one of my favorite poems I’ve ever written, and probably the most talked about among family and friends who’ve read it, most likely due to its extremely graphic content. (My mom’s co-worker is probably still wondering what happened to that sweet little angel she once knew).

This poem—inspired by the frightful painting, Saturn Devouring His Son, by Spanish artist, Francisco Goya—tackles the uncomfortable and controversial subject of abortion, how it can affect a woman physically, emotionally, psychologically.

Read the full poem below, and if you want to know more about my inspiration behind the poem, and more about me as a writer in general, check out my artist interview on fēlan’s website here.

By the way, I’ve been on quite the extended hiatus (two years and counting!) when it comes to new writings not published on this blog. I know I’m getting a little ahead of myself, but I’m looking forward to 2018 being a much more productive year, as far as writing goes.

I’ve spent most of this year trying to clear off my plate and get myself better organized so that I can have more time and energy to dedicate to writing. While I don’t think I’m there yet, I feel I’ve made a lot of progress since January. Here’s to hoping 2018 will see lots more publication acknowledgements! My “Published Works” page is getting quite dusty…

A Mother Still

When she returned home from the hospital, she locked her doors and lay in the bed alone. She didn’t move; she couldn’t, the pain was too great. She felt as if pieces of her had been ripped out from the inside—they had. She felt she was hemorrhaging enough blood for two persons—She was.

When she bled through her pad, she didn’t attempt to change it. She couldn’t if she wanted. She was too sore to roll over onto her stomach—empty and full at the same time—slide one leg off the edge of the bed, and then the other, crouch onto the floor and then pull herself up, take one step, and then another to the bathroom too far away.

She couldn’t imagine sitting on the toilet, wincing under the ache of the muscles in her thighs and abdomen pulled tight, looking down between her thighs into the bowl of the commode and seeing remnants of a life swirling and blending with urine and water. To see it caught up in the fibers of a maxipad clung to her skin, like a nightmare trapped in the dreamcatcher’s net. To feel drops trickle down her legs when she stood and slowly dragged forever filthy clothing back over her hips.

She curled around the pill bottle clutched in her fist. Prescription pain medicine strong enough for her to become addicted to after the physical pain had left her, but the emotional trauma still remained. She hacked up saliva and mucus from the back of her mouth and used it to push two down her throat. She lay on her back, watching the ceiling spin overhead. When she closed her eyes, she dreamt of drowning, of splashing to the surface gasping for air, and tiny little hands, stubby little fingers, dunking her head back under.

She woke choking, unable to breathe, and when she looked up, she thought she saw eyes, narrowed and burrowing. She sat up. Through the pain, she crawled to the other end of the bed, to her purse hanging over the bedpost, and retrieved a pen from the front pocket. Lying back, she wrote upside down, crooked letters on he stomach, below her navel, against her throbbing womb, in red ink.

Believe me, I loved
you—Before Winter’s smitten
death—And even still.

—Nortina


It is Short Story A Day May, and today’s prompt asks us to write a story in the form of a series of letters. This haibun is the result of how I was inspired by the prompt—my “series of letters” coming together to form the melancholic haiku at the end of the story. 

Blurred Reality

I’ve been living on caffeine for the past few weeks, forcing myself to continue on with my various projects at the risk of losing sleep. I’ve managed to keep up with the A to Z Challenge so far, but I’ve neglected a lot of my favorite flash fiction challenges. Thankfully, I have a friend in Amina who can help me write a story! Here’s another one of our collaborations for your entertainment.

This one’s pretty dark, so you’ve been warned . . .

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Blurred Reality

A few days have gone by, and all I’ve done is write. I’ve run out of ink so I cut myself and use my blood. My thoughts need to be heard . . . need to be read. It’s been a long time coming . . .

Brick walls.
Shattered glasses.
Blood.
Sweat.
Tears.
Pain.

My phone vibrates against the porcelain tub and rattles to the floor. I don’t move to answer. It’s probably Kerry. I can’t talk to her now. I don’t want to hear her incessant complaining about Mike’s infidelity. If only she knew. I would do anything to be cheated on, to share my bed with another woman, who tangles herself in the sheets as the man I love pleasures every inch of her body with his tongue and lips as he did mine the night before. Instead, I can only taste the iron on his clammy palm from when he covered my nose and mouth, can only feel the shards of glass slice through my skin from when he thrust me through the window of the abandoned hospital building in the woods.

I lift my arm out of water. My skin is wrinkled like prunes. I wish I could trim it away, shed myself of the filth. How long have I been in this bath? An hour? Two? The water’s not even hot, not even lukewarm. I wipe away the soap suds to read what I have written. Most of the ink from the pen is faded, but the scratches are clear as day, a stark red against my pale skin. I take a corkscrew and continue my story, carving four more letters into my wrist:

R-A-P-E.

I trusted him.

I trusted him as a person.

I trusted his soul.

I remember the days when he was the one who made me smile. Dinner dates, movie night and cocktails. Maybe it was my fault . . . Did I not scream loud enough? Was my “No” in whispers? When I said, “Stop,” didn’t I mean it????

Maybe it was my fault for agreeing to go out camping with him that night. It started so beautifully. We stared at the stars and watched as the clouds danced in circles around the moon. The weather was perfect, and his smell . . . Oh his smell — the woody, musky scent.

My face breaks into a smile at the happy memory, and in an instant I remember . . . I remember him choking me, and my smile, it turns into screams as I cut the side of my face. I don’t want to be beautiful. I want this pain to take me . . . to a place where I’ll never be able to return, a place where I have no trust, a place where I will never be in pain.

I sink lower into the tub, my knees at the level of my eyes. It was so tempting . . . Just to dip my nose under . . . inhale . . . let the water flood my lungs . . .

But I want to see his face when I toss the small plastic rod at his feet. I want to watch his cold blue eyes turn a steel gray when he sees those two pink lines drawn right down the center.

It’ll be just our luck if we are having a girl.

The door bell rings. I sit in this bath tub contemplating if I really want to entertain guests tonight.

What time is it anyway??

If I ignore the sounds long enough, maybe they’ll go away . . .

Ding

Ding

Ding

Ding

Diiinnnnnng

Who the fuck is it anyway!!!!!???!

I find the strength to get out of the tub, grab my robe and walk sluggishly down the stairs . . . Hoping by the time I get to the door, whoever is there will be gone.

Dinnnnggg

Dinnnnggggg

“I’m coming, dammit.”

I open the door . . . and blue eyes are staring back at me . . . I can recognize those eyes anywhere. I feel all the emotion rushing through me . . .

I can’t breathe. I can’t fucking breathe.

“WHAT THE HELL ARE YOU DOING HERE?”

“I was worried about you.” He speaks softly, then steps over the threshold and wraps me in his arms. “You haven’t been answering my calls.”

I extend my forearm and push him back. “You’ve got some nerve,” I sneer.

“Babe–” he starts, but stops and hangs his head. He should feel ashamed. Coming here. To do what? To gloat? To pretend my torment for the past several weeks was all in my head? Will he go so far as to say I wanted it, I asked for it, I was begging for it?

Instead he says, “You know I love you, right?”

I slam the door in his face. That kind of love is deadly, so says my bloody wrist, my scarred face.

“Babe please . . . Open the door.”

My calm breath turns into rage.

“You raped me! You raped me and you know it, and now I’m pregnant and I don’t want this child . . . I don’t want it . . . Take it away . . .”

I hear him stop breathing for a second.

“We are keeping MY child. Don’t you even think for a second you’re killing MY child.”

“Your child?” I say helplessly. I turn my back to the door and lean against it. What was I to him? An incubator? Just a surrogate? Collateral damage? He always talked about how much he wanted kids, almost to the point of obsession. I was the one who blocked it. I wouldn’t have a child out of wedlock. So he proposed. Again and again. Sometimes twice in one week. He was always in a rush. But why?

I thought my pregnancy would make him feel guilty for what he did. This couldn’t have been the way he wanted to conceive his dream family—a wife, a couple of kids, a three-story house in the suburbs—but I guess there’s always a dark secret behind every white picket fence. Would this be ours? It wouldn’t be as easy to deny him in marriage. How often would he take advantage?

My body bounces off the door as he kicks and punches it. “Just open up!” He shouts.

“Open up,” I scoff to myself, like he opened my womb. My stomach rises in my chest. I double over dizzy and start to dry heave.

He must hear me, because his pounding grows more invigorating. It’s only a matter of time before he breaks in.

It all happens in an instant . . .

The last thing I remember are sounds… Various sounds.

The sound of my hinges giving way to his strength . . . My feet shuffling on the marble as I make a dash for the kitchen . . . Him grunting as he grabs my arms . . . Me screaming at him to let go . . .

“I’ll kill you before you kill my child. If I can’t have you then no one else will, you filthy bitch.”

This can’t be how it all ends. Me — dead and pregnant for a psychopath. I still remember how every punch to my stomach felt . . . And in my head I am actually dead . . .

I finally begin to see the light . . . Is this what death feels like???? Just as I’m about to give up, I feel the corkscrew in the pocket of my robe.

Stabbing someone, on paper, seems easy. Hollywood would have you believe you can sink a knife into human flesh, down to the handle, and the blade would smoothly glide through, like slicing softened butter. In reality, you could use all of your strength, and the blade still wouldn’t go deeper than a quarter inch.

My energy depleted from the baby, my engraved wrist, the smell of Merlot I opened but never drank, I can barely lift my arm. I make it only to his waist, and blocking his blows with one hand, I jab his thigh with the corkscrew in the other. Once, then twice. It barely scratches the surface, but it is enough to stun him, and the minute he lets me go, I sprint for the bathroom, close and lock the door behind me, and dive for my cellphone on the floor.

It’s still vibrating. Kerry’s been calling this whole time.

“Kerry, call the police. He’s going to kill me. Help me, Kerry.”

The next sounds I hear are two gun shots and Kerry knocking on the bathroom door.

“Kiera, open up!!! He’s gone.”

***

“Miss Kiera you, were very lucky. You could have lost the baby . . .”

I’ve been in a trance for days. My memory is foggy. I remember bright lights and beeps and people talking . . . Faces, a lot of faces. Familiar ones. Unfamiliar ones. White robes. Blue suits . . . Needles, clanking metal.

“Miss Keira, can you hear me?”

I look up at the doctor and smile.

“Yes, I can Dr. Liam. I would like an abortion please . . .”

—Amina & Nortina

Mother of None

My thighs pillowed from my shorts like jumbo marshmallows pinched at the center. They rubbed together, chafing in the dry heat, as I hiked the dilapidated staircase.

Why did he choose me? The overweight girl with the plain clothes, plainer face, and stuttered speech. The late bloomer Zane from Calculus knocked up before her first period. The slut who missed final exams to get a late-term abortion.

He wanted to do it standing up against the pillar of the abandoned train stop, so I peeled down my shorts, listened for the cries of another unborn child  implanted inside me.

word count: 99

—Nortina


© Amy Reese
© Amy Reese

Friday Fictioneers is a weekly challenge where you must write a story in 100 words or less using the provided photo prompt as inspiration. Click the froggy icon to ready other stories and add your own.

Regret

She keeps scrolling through the anxious smiles, the brand new Spiderman backpacks, the first handprint smudges on the classroom windows.

“You’re only torturing yourself.”

“Mine would’ve started kindergarten today.”

He reaches for the phone. She flicks his hand away.

“One more picture.”

 

Coat Hanger

This post is part of SoCS. http://lindaghill.com/2015/01/16/the-friday-reminder-and-prompt-for-socs-january-1715/ 

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Three days later and I’m still not healed. Tasha says it’s just my period coming back, but that coat hanger really hurt, and when she pulled it out, I didn’t see no baby.

“That’s ‘cuz you too early,” Tasha had said. “You only five weeks. You can’t make no baby in five weeks.”

“How I know it’s gone then?”

“‘Cuz you bleedin’.”

On the fourth day, we walk to the CVS after school to buy some more maxi pads. The lady at the register smiles at me and tells me if I really want to feel like a woman, I should buy some tampons, but I still hurt between my legs, and a tampon could do more harm than good.

“Did you tell Deshawn it’s gone?” Tasha asks.

“Yea but I don’t think he wants me no more.”

Deshawn is older than me. He’s actually in high school. Tasha called him a pervert when she first met him. “What’s a junior want with an eighth grader, anyway?” she’d said,  but he just sang Age Ain’t Nothing But A Number and if R. Kelly can do it then so can he. He stopped calling when I told him I was pregnant.

On the fifth day I stay home from school. The pain has gotten worse, and my abdomen has gone numb. Tasha brings me my homework assignments after school. “I don’t think you did it right,” I tell her.

“I did it just how I see ’em do it in them eighties pimp movies my mama be watchin’.”

“Don’t all the girls end up in the hospital in those movies?”

“You gon tell your ma?”

“I can’t. She’ll kill me and call the cops on Deshawn.”

“You already dying. Plus Deshawn need to get locked up. He’s a creep. I heard he messin’ with LaTonya now. She’s younger than you!”

I feel a sharp pinch in my inside. I hold my stomach and moan.

“Yo mama a nurse. She can help.”

“No she can’t. If she cared, she would already know. We did it right in this room. Her bed on the other side of this wall. You gon tell me she never heard the head board? He was on top of me for at least 20 minutes slamming the headboard against the wall intentionally. And when he came, he yelled so loud Mrs. Nash’s porch light turned on. I just knew we was in trouble. My mama never moved. The next morning she made up my bed and acted like she ain’t even see the stains.”

“Maybe she didn’t.”

I pull my covers to my chin and roll over, turning my back to Tasha. “If it don’t heal, then I’m just gon be dead.”

“I’ll get you some of my mama’s pills and buy some more maxi pads,” Tasha says. I don’t hear her leave.

 

—Nortina

Black History Month: Gwendolyn Brooks

Gwendolyn Brooks was the first African American to win the Pulitzer Prize in poetry. I first began reading her poetry during a trying time in my life when I was depressed and even suicidal. I had to make a difficult decision, and I had a hard time forgiving myself and others around me who were involved. Then one day, I read this poem:

 

The Mother

Abortions will not let you forget.
You remember the children you got that you did not get,
The damp small pulps with a little or with no hair,
The singers and workers that never handled the air.
You will never neglect or beat
Them, or silence or buy with a sweet.
You will never wind up the sucking-thumb
Or scuttle off ghosts that come.
You will never leave them, controlling your luscious sigh,
Return for a snack of them, with gobbling mother-eye.

I have heard in the voices of the wind the voices of my dim killed children.
I have contracted. I have eased
My dim dears at the breasts they could never suck.
I have said, Sweets, if I sinned, if I seized
Your luck
And your lives from your unfinished reach,
If I stole your births and your names,
Your straight baby tears and your games,
Your stilted or lovely loves, your tumults, your marriages, aches, and your deaths,
If I poisoned the beginnings of your breaths,
Believe that even in my deliberateness I was not deliberate.
Though why should I whine,
Whine that the crime was other than mine?—
Since anyhow you are dead.
Or rather, or instead,
You were never made.
But that too, I am afraid,
Is faulty: oh, what shall I say, how is the truth to be said?
You were born, you had body, you died.
It is just that you never giggled or planned or cried.

Believe me, I loved you all.
Believe me, I knew you, though faintly, and I loved, I loved you
All.

 

Gwendolyn was an amazing poet. She wrote about people and places. She wrote about the black experience and made it relevant to everyone. She provided a voice for the black working and middle class. She provided a voice for me.

When you make a mistake and subsequently hate yourself for it, you have a hard time moving forward. Coping with such a painful decision can be especially difficult when the people involved act as if it never happened and expect you to do the same. This poem helped me deal with my pain, guilt, hatred, (a multitude of emotions), through writing. Although I can’t say that I am completely healed, I am in a better place than I was three years ago.

Poetry is so therapeutic. Whatever meaning the poet had in mind when writing a poem, that meaning can change as the poem speaks to different people of different backgrounds. “The Mother” inspired me to write several poems about my experience, even a short story that I am in the midst of reworking. It feels so good to let my heart pour out on the page, and even if I never share my writing on the subject of abortion with anyone else, I am happy that I could release that built up emotion because if I had held onto it for a little while longer, it would have killed me.

Thank you Gwendolyn Brooks, and happy Black History Month.

 

For more on Gwendolyn Brooks, visit here: http://www.poetryfoundation.org/bio/gwendolyn-brooks