Elegy for the Body
Dr I'm troubled can you solve me, please?
C'est suburbe la vie, the nurses sing
and the months go by like a dream not killing us yet.
—Deborah Landau, "Mr. and Mrs. End of Suffering"

At nineteen I began the work
of commandeering my flesh
and locking biology out from the inside

with a T-shaped piece of copper coil
and the nurse who neglected
to give me the pill, holding an iron skewer

she said, we'll forge ahead. She said,
most women are fine without it. I stared
upwards, the florescent bulb flickering

at the corners of the room like a halo.
Like a sky lapping up light. Every event lasts
as long as time does—minutes

burn up, expire and scatter
like flies. She said,
Take a deep breath.

Years later, I have driven myself
to the emergency room with a t-shirt
knotted crudely around my foot

to remarry meat and bone. When skin splits
to invite a chorus of red, fearful cavern
exposed beneath strawberry tissue,

do not remember you are fertilizer
in training. To fill the silence,
game shows play on the television.

Around blankets and wheelchairs,
other people burrow in,
quietly watching.

An antiseptic sting gave way
to the most blinding white
hot fierce helpless pain that exists

prodding at a part inside me
I didn't know did. The iron rod
to split my cervix, the copper coil

to ground my womb. Result: a decade of
deliberate infertility. Penance for the abortions
I never had but might have had.

I didn't cry until the nurse left, and then I did it silently,
messy and open-mouthed. I drove myself home, wincing
at each fracture in the road.

What's inside should stay. We don't want to know we are capable
of the irreparable. That we are trapped in crumbling structures
going down alone.

There were four sets of stairs
and I propelled my dead weight
up all of them, fell into bed and bled

for days. Weeks. I promised myself
that next time, there would be
painkillers. There would be

someone there
to drive me

Five years later, halfway to "next time,"
I am waiting
for the doctor and the stitches.

My foot dripping
onto the table like a leaky faucet.
If I didn't live alone, would I have come here,

limped across the parking lot
with a t-shirt bandage substitute?
Would I have fallen down the stairs?

It takes a thing like the frailty of the body
to make you feel it. The distance
between love and isolation. The sudden panic.

He told me he wanted to sleep with me,
so I drove to Frisco for an antidote
to the hemorrhage. Shepherd's Purse

tasted of bitter and grain. I downed it
in a gasoline milkshake. He never
showed. The bleeding stopped, anyway.

The flesh doesn't know. My mother sliced
her retina on the bristle of a hairbrush, preparing
for a man who took her hope

and two hundred dollars, never looking back.
It's a shame, these bodies; how they're possessed by people
designed to destroy them.

Erin Slaughter has a BA in Creative Writing from the University of North Texas. She is currently an MFA student in Creative Writing at Western Kentucky University, where she works as the graduate assistant for Steel Toe Books. She is the head editor of Lavender Bluegrass: LGBT Writers on the South, an anthology forthcoming from KY Story in 2016. Her fiction, poetry, and creative nonfiction has been published in The Harpoon Review, The North Texas Review, Drunk in a Midnight Choir, GRAVEL, and 101 Words, among others. She lives in Bowling Green, Kentucky with her monochrome cat, Amelia.

Boxcar Poetry Review - ISSN 1931-1761