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Poem of the Month

Jan Beatty’s fourth full-length poetry collection, The Switching/Yard, was named one of “30 New Books That Will Help You Rediscover Poetry” by Library Journal. The Huffington Post named her as one of ten women writers for “required reading.” Her other books include Red Sugar, Boneshaker, and Mad River, winner of the Agnes Lynch Starrett Poetry Prize. Beatty is host and producer of Prosody, on NPR affiliate WESA-FM featuring the work of national writers. She is director of creative writing at Carlow University, where she runs the Madwomen in the Attic writing workshops and teaches in the MFA program.


August 2017

From Jackknife: New and Selected Poems

byJan Beatty


Abortion with Gun Barrel

The 12 year-old walks thin, like a child/
her hair alive in vibrating threads
in the clinic light.
Her mother:
My daughter. I give my permission.
And the girl cannot be real, or the sky
would burn—not bleed like it does in
the waiting room of grown women.
The mother in the brittle inner office scribbles
her name small on the collapsing form.
Now move the flying hands of the counselor
who becomes the first bird,
stripping the sky blank with air leaving.
Now she walks back to the maze of illuminated
bodies to find a way to make herself dissolve:
Not what I wanted for you, not this.
In the inner body of the clinic, the divining
of this choice: the small name solid,
the songbird stopped/
the singing continues.
I am the counselor,
there are cracks in the barrel of the gun/
there is aiming/
shots of sorrow—
shots of light.
I am ruinous with light, we are ruinous with making
our lives in the procedure room.
The 12 year-old opens the leaving door—
a bird let loose, no clear note to sing.
Song of sorrow and praise as she wears
the skin of herself,
this idea of skin that she’s learning.


© 2017, Jan Beatty. All rights reserved.











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