Right the Ship

I write to you out of a sense of duty and love for my country. I am a physician who understands that denying women access to abortion results in death, injury, and disease from unsafe pregnancy termination. Forcing women to keep unwanted pregnancies also results in increased crime rates a generation later, as was noted by the national drop in crime after Roe v. Wade.

I am a concerned citizen appalled that women’s rights may regress back to a time when women were more overtly treated as second-class citizens. While some may think this goes without saying, women’s rights are human rights. The Supreme Court’s apparent reasoning behind repealing Roe is weak, and could easily lead to further measures of progress being lost. 

Beyond my qualifications as a physician and my insight as a born-and-raised American, I am adamant that abortion be kept legal due to my appreciation of the myriad reasons why women may seek to end pregnancy. As an adolescent I suffered both rape and impaired access to contraception. This is an all too common scenario that most victims never disclose due to stigma. 

As a young adult, I escaped from abusive relationships through abortion, for which I am eternally grateful. Being forced to wait at least three days after watching the pre-procedure video to receive the procedure as mandated by law was demeaning, however it was far more tolerable than complete denial of care. Abortion is exponentially safer than pregnancy and childbirth. 

I am now a mother with firsthand experience of the lasting and profound impact of pregnancy, childbirth, and parenthood on a woman’s health. I am able to provide for my family today because I had an abortion when my husband and I subsisted below the poverty line while I studied medicine. Our previous pregnancy resulted in persistent, severe illness which impaired my ability to safely care for my patients, and at the time we could not afford the cost of prenatal or child care on top of my husband’s burdensome student loan payments. Ending my previous pregnancy continues to have a lasting positive impact on our family. 

I beseech you to protect the rights of millions of Americans to maintain autonomy over our own bodies. While those in power may threaten our right to make decisions, we will continue to fight for each other and for our children. I write to you with my daughter by my side. I pray that she will grow up in a country where she has at least as much freedom to make the best choices for herself as her parents did. I am living proof that when our nation’s most economically vulnerable are let down by inadequate access to healthcare, childcare, contraception, and transportation, abortion is the final safety net that allows us to right the ship of our lives.

High Wire

Every time I write, I play with fire

I know it is just a matter of time before my luck expires

When you find these words there will be hell to pay for what I didn’t say to your face

The dicks I didn’t count, the stories I didn’t recount to you.

After all I have given, how can you think I owe you anything but grace?

Yet I step out again on this high wire, reeling over the mire

You are all up in my business, yet have no business of your own

I warn you: if you mess with me enough, you will be the one without a home

Stop trying to squeeze me dry

With love and patience, it’ll all be yours in time

Invisible

I grew up in invisible poverty

Not in a city housing project, but surrounded by trees- keepers of my sanity

Unfortunately, I didn’t cling tight to that original green

I left the nature that uplifted me to get swallowed by the big city

I did hard time in the belly of that proverbial whale

I was a natural at drinking at bars and hitching rides from strangers in cars

I ran as fast as I could in the workaholic race without stopping to realize that I was headed away from that which my heart truly desired- tranquility and peace

I recreated the high stress of my childhood without seeing my own role in the process

Perhaps the cycle of trauma is not fully broken, yet I am breaking free

The chains that bind me are invisible, yet I feel them loosen and weaken

I get stronger every day

Tension

Maybe I can sing to my tension to put it to sleep

Sweet crying child, mama has things to tend to

It doesn’t matter how much you know; what matters is how much you grow

I like to think that I allow time for transformation as I race to cram knowledge into my head. Perhaps giving myself permission to be less busy will be a milestone of true transformation.

Even the most awful moment is still just a moment if you let it go.

PTSD comes pounding on the door with complete disregard for personal space

‘I’m trying to put my baby to sleep’ I hiss at that deaf, indifferent faceless face

Everyone has something to teach us, and we have something to teach everyone

I thought that I was the only one who had learning to do, that I was unique in my innate deficiencies and that if I worked hard enough, I could trick others into believing I was normal. What a struggle.

Getting my MD was ego driven and ego destroying. At the end of the journey instead of wearing my hard-won crown I want to throw it to the ground because I know what really matters now.

I approach the veil even though my greatest fear is revealing the truth about myself.

You fire bullets at me, then ask me for more ammunition

In the hospital I admit the ghosts of clinic visits past

My forefathers poured gasoline onto the opioid epidemic, now I am asked to light a match and do the math

Prisoners on hospital holiday, homeless in need of shelter

I hunger for my own health and feel that it is just a sprout away

I keep my cat in the bag next to the elephant in my room

Money grows like a tree. I’m trying to plant seeds while my man tosses them in the breeze like Johnny Appleseed.

I wash off layers of alcohol-based sanitizer from my drunken hands.

Just because you feel superior to me does not mean that you are my superior.

I loathe you for calling people out on their bullshit because I don’t call you or anyone else out on theirs.

Words of truth stay trapped in my mouth and are transformed to tears which pour out of my eyes like a spout.

I’m beginning to notice that my avoidance of confrontation at all costs is no longer worth the price to my body.

My body is strong, carrying tension so far for so long

I’m ready to lighten my load

I stumble upon enlightenment on the rocky road

Death Certificate

Another day, another death by COVID.

My COVID patient who died today was relatively healthy and young.
While filling out his death certificate, I paused over the ’cause of death’ section:
 
My patient had multi-organ failure with a subsequent cardiac arrhythmia incompatible with life and viral pneumonia causing respiratory failure, however the failure that lead up to his COVID infection was systemic at a societal level.
 
My patient was a prisoner, infected by COVID-19 because he was denied the ability to socially distance, robbed of the right the protect himself.
 
I didn’t know him, but as I studied his body during his final hours I imagined what his life had been like, and wanted to include on his death certificate:
 
Cause of death:
Complications resulting from loss of human rights due to imprisonment
Secondary to the prison-industrial complex
Secondary to class warfare
Secondary to poverty
Secondary to racism
 
I didn’t know him, but I shared pieces of his struggle:
Adverse childhood experiences, trauma on trauma on trauma
 
His premature death is another stone in my pocket
My path is liberation
Wherever his soul is now, I hope he feels liberated too
Liberated from the brown skin which lead to his incarceration which inevitably did him in.

Sex, Money, Dishes

Tell me you’ve never fought with your partner about sex, money, or dishes.
Sex
I used to fight endlessly about sex, mainly because I didn’t want to have it but my partners did, so we’d fight and fuck, then I’d cry and be blinded by images of destroying my body or their body just to stop the rape and the torture of not feeling safe in my skin. Amazingly, we all survived and now I have a loving partner with whom I have gold-medal sex; you have to experience it to believe it, it’s like I’m cashing in on some sex fund which I invested in long ago. Happily I don’t fight about sex anymore- I’ve got a man I’m attracted to inside and out, and he loves me the way I want to be loved.
Money
I used to exchange sex for money. It seemed like there was always too much sex and not enough money in those transactions, or transgressions. Even those back-alley deals were more straight forward than my relationships in which sex was exchanged for the illusion of not being alone, for food, housing or ‘safety’, though I learned that the cost to my physical, mental and spiritual wellbeing which false relationships exacted was not worth the dinners, drinks, gifts of lingerie, attention or the roof over my head. You might get raped if you travel alone, but if you travel with a man you are guaranteed to get raped. Live within your means because fine dining won’t taste good if you are eating with a strange man, believe me I know. If you have to learn on your own I understand, however if my years of pain can help prevent a moment of your suffering, it will have been worth it.
Dishes
Rare is the man who finishes the dishes. Common are the men who stack the dishes artfully in the sink until there is barely room to turn on the faucet. I have noticed this pattern during my co-habitations with men. I’ve done too many dishes. It especially irks me when men drown sponges in the rinsed yet still not washed dish pile, unperturbed as the sponge decomposes into a musty mess. Men seem deaf to the silent cries of the forgotten dish sponge. Day after day, I rescue the sponge, wringing it out and restoring it to its rightful place safe on dry land, in sight. My man shows his love for me not only through our award-winning sex, but also through money (ie, responsibility for personal  finances to contribute to our future together) and dishes: ladies and gentlemen, my man did the dishes tonight, thus allowing me time to write the words you read. If a man loves you he will want to learn your love language, which you must teach him with patience, positive reinforcement, and more patience.
I grew up doing the dishes, in poverty, and sexually molested by family and friends. My sister would beat me when she got in trouble for not doing the dishes with me after we were told to do them, but the alternative would have been getting beaten by my parents for not doing the dishes, so I was going to get beat no matter what I did. I wished that someone would do the fucking dishes with me. A girl can get lonely amidst the dissolving suds.

You Can Have It

Darling, though we’ve never met

You rolled the dice, you placed a bet
That you could win a lawsuit
Born of the heartbreaking news
That your baby died inside you
A horrific experience, true
But of your baby’s death, I had nothing to do
The coroner’s report reveals the truth
Your baby passed away at least a day before you ever walked my way
Darling, I didn’t even lay eyes upon you
I was being a team player, not a baby slayer
In going above and beyond to help another
I didn’t imagine I’d be sued by a mother
You said we dropped the ball
But we were never playing at all
If it is money you are looking for,
Honey you’re knocking on the wrong door
All those years I could have been earning
I spent in medical school learning
about medicine, not about law
Perhaps I wasn’t well trained after all
You want us to take the blame
for your unspeakable pain
Can you imagine what I have given up
just to help you, is it never enough?
For you, I went hungry, I went without sleep
Hard years away from my family, I didn’t see
I got stuck with needles, splashed with blood
Only for you to smear my name like it was mud
On the journey that led me to you,
I gave up love, I gave my life
I turned away from ease and took on strife
Of my own pregnancies, I sacrificed them all
My weeping uterus bled raw
Just to give you my best, I gave up the rest-
My youth, my babies and childbearing years, too many unnumbered tears
I stayed in an abusive relationship throughout medical school
Because the only way to escape my abuser would have been to drop out and forego my education
I stayed in hell for all the women held back from their full potential because of men
Though it was the hardest thing I ever did, and I still have nightmares about him
I don’t feel safe in my skin, but then again I never did
I wonder if I’d do it all again, just to reach out my hand, only to have you bite it
I fought hard to serve you, and serve you I did
Without a word of thanks from you, kid
Then again, we’ve never met
I’m named in your lawsuit, yet
What I’m trying to tell you
Is that my medical degree,
My heart, my mind
My hard work, and all my precious time-
You can have it
It was always yours anyway
Everything I do, dear patient, is for you
I give you my life- you can have my lawsuit too
In trying to hurt me, you only harm yourself
We are all connected in the One True Self
Limitlessness is bliss
Reach out and return the infinite kiss
Available to you at any time
You can have it if you understand this rhyme

Our Mother’s Face

We thought we could improve perfection, Mama

When we drew lines across your face
Highways of asphalt scars connecting the
Clusters of concrete wounds on your cheeks
High rise buildings offering every luxury but you, Mama
We dig into you without asking, Mama, pounding into your bedrock
Even as you gently rock us to sleep each night, as if our actions are alright
We are the ones who refuse to turn out the lights
We don’t hear your wisdom, Mama, which you sing softly even now
We boast loudly but when do we listen, Mama?
We are shaken to the bone when we drill into you, Mama
Between fracking and petroleum, our hearts are in pandemonium
We make ourselves ill when we poison your blood
Dumping debris into your waters
We choke as we pollute your lungs
Pouring smoke into your atmosphere
We share a single circulatory and respiratory system with you, Mama
Our shortsighted deeds will always come back to haunt us in spades
We drink from your abundant cup, rarely satisfied that we have enough
We pretend to be separate from you even as we depend on you for our every breath, from birth to death
We think we know best but we haven’t fooled the rest, only ourselves
We act big, but we are dust on your mighty shoulders, Mama
Our mother has the most gorgeous face
Deep blue-green eyes and a sparkling smile
Bathed in rich brown skin, holding the miracle of life itself within her
Her beauty cannot be improved by anything man-made
To thrive, she needs only to be loved by those she loves unconditionally, by us
This is her divine lesson of self-love
Caring for the Earth is caring for ourselves
We spring forth from the Earth’s womb, are nourished by her breast, and remain connected to her indefinitely by an unbreakable umbilical cord
Though we mistreat you, we love you and we need you, Mama
You are the only oasis in the vast desert of the universe
We feel calm and content when we are close to you, Mama
Words are not your language
We must show our love for you through actions
Spending quality time with you
Living simply and sustainably
Voting with every transaction
Passing legislation to protect you from destruction by our hands
We have injured you too many times in the name of profit Mama, which only robs ourselves of true wealth: clean air, water and soil
We can’t buy more of you in any store, Mama
When we hurt you, we hurt ourselves more
You wait patiently for us to learn, even as we pillage and burn
You demonstrate how to love more completely, Mama, but that does not excuse our transgressions
This Earth Day, may we pause for reflection on our self-centered predilection
May we hold you in the center of our heart, where you always belonged from the start
Though at times we get distracted, more of your children are treading softly on you each day, Mama
May I be one such child of the Earth, and help others so inspired do the same
Your health depends on what we do today
May we lift our faces to you and see our collective dream come true

Alchemy

I spend my evenings dissecting out the lead bullets which you pummel into my chest throughout the day

I gingerly remove the palpable parts of your reckless barrage

Do you intend to hurt me so deeply that I must perform surgery nightly just to keep my sanity?

If I ever had any sanity to lose, that is…

Wisps of breath curl coolly around my open wounds, trying to soothe the painful sting of your attack

I am humbled by how long it takes me to heal from injuries that you were so quick to inflict

Don’t tell me you Kant follow the Golden Rule

That is the universal elixir we are all hoping for

Now I know where the true treasure is

It has been mine all along, my heart of gold

I choose to share it with the world

What will you do with your golden treasure?

Please don’t keep it buried all your life

It is already within you, yours to share whenever you wish

If only I could get this message to you somehow

I’ve sent messages in bottles before

But bottles can lead to ripples

And I’m trying to calm my water

Splash

I’m learning to dodge the lead bullets of your matrix

And melt them into gold

Treating others how you want to be treated

Is a rule that never grows old