Monthly Archive for December, 2009

Waiting to Take the Pregnancy Test, Dreaming When the Moon is Full, Letter at Nine Weeks

3 Poems

by Wendy Wisner

Waiting to Take the Pregnancy Test

A yellow taxi, bright as blood,
stops behind the oak tree,
picks up no one, and slides away.

Every thirty seconds, an airplane
grazes the yolk yellow house
across the street.  Blue jays

spill from rusty maples-
swarms of them, hollow bodies.
I wish we bore our young

as birds do, outside the body.
Humans like to look
at what they make while they make it.

Each brief morning,
I gaze through the red veil
of my curtains.  I make a world.

In the afternoon I lose it.

Dreaming When the Moon is Full

My father picks me up in the old Datsun,
seats still sticky from the apple juice
I spilled as a baby.  My sister is a child
in her mint green T and it isn’t weird
when I bury my head in her chest.
It’s mushy there, like leaky down pillows
and she tells me everything will be fine
the way I told her on the phone last night
everything will be fine because the moon is full.
Then my father drops me off at your childhood
home.  Your mother’s hair is long and gold
like Rapunzel’s and she says it’s okay
if you and I sleep in the wild woods
of the unfinished attic.  As we climb
the stairs, I cup my hand on the small
of your back, rake my fingers through your
corn husk hair.  Even in the dream
I cannot give you a child, but you rock
and cradle me on the sawdust floor,
my body floppy as a doll.  Over and over
you forgive me, mouth sealed to my milky chest,
stars knocking like dice against the skylights.

Letter at Nine Weeks*

First the book said my womb was a plum,
then a small pear, a navel orange,
now a grapefruit, and this morning, you pushing
your almond body against the edges
of mine, drool blooming so thick and sticky
on my pillow I feared it was blood, I said to you
I want the world, I want it just a little.

Danny wakes, and we sleep,
my body splayed out, ripe, taking up space,
you stuck to me, secret as a silkworm.
The blender whirs, the phone rings.
Birds screech, but I am strapped
to this bed, not dreaming, not thinking, you gently sucking.

*”Letter At Nine Weeks” previously appeared in a chapbook published by The Zen Center of NY in October 2009.


Wendy Wisner’s first book of poems, Epicenter, was published by CW Books in 2004.  Her poems have appeared in The Spoon River Review, Rhino, Natural Bridge, The Bellevue Literary Review, online at Verse Daily, and elsewhere.  Wendy previously taught writing and literature at Hunter College; she is now a La Leche League leader and is pursuing her Lactation Consultant (IBCLC) certification.  Visit Wendy on the web at

Review of Impossible Motherhood: Testimony of an Abortion Addict

Impossible Motherhood: Testimony of an Abortion Addict

by Irene Vilar (

Other Press, 2009, $15.95


Review by Jessica Powers


Irene Vilar’s second memoir explores a part of her life that she left out of her first memoir entirely—the fifteen abortions she had over the course of fifteen years.


Twelve of those abortions were pregnancies with the same man, a former professor, a man more than thirty years older, who became her lover when she was still a teenager. Ultimately, he became her husband and, as she refers to him, her “master.” She wanted a baby every time she conceived—an average of every 8 months, with the exception of a year and a half when she was working on her first memoir and remembered to take birth control pills—but knew that she had to choose between her life and her love. “Pregnant, my life felt less-sub-human,” she writes. Yet from the beginning, her husband had told her how “women’s desires for children killed each one of his love stories” (p. 51). Vilar knew that if she ever decided not to terminate one of her pregnancies, she would be terminating the relationship instead. “If you are grown up enough to have a child, you are just as fit to be a single mother,” he told her. “But I will not be a victim of your displacement” (83).


She saw each pregnancy as a “death sentence” for the relationship but also “a chance to rise above it, and above him” (79). Yet each time, she chose to end the pregnancy instead of the relationship. Vilar suggests she was addicted to abortion, but I would argue she was addicted to this particular man, a cruel master who cared more for his own comfort than for the woman he spent so many years “loving.” On the other hand, if she was addicted to the man, she never would have jeopardized the relationship so often by becoming pregnant, so perhaps she is on target when she admits that the cycle of pregnancy-and-abortion fed some destructive need. She felt validated, even “aroused,” by each pregnancy, panicked by the possible demise of her relationship, and simultaneously relieved and empty whenever she had an abortion.


Throughout the story, Vilar explores the ways her mother’s suicide when she was 8 left her feeling abandoned and homeless, linking that incident to her own struggles as an adult. She talks about her family’s propensity to addiction—her mother’s addiction to Valium, her father’s addiction to gambling and alcohol, her brothers’ addictions to heroin, and her own to abortion. She explores the damage done to her psyche at a young age but she fails to link her feelings of abandonment to her willingness to submit herself—body, mind, and soul—to a man in his fifties when she was only 17. She fails to acknowledge the betrayal of the feminist movement, which has fought (and continues to fight) for women’s right to an “out” when they find themselves with an untenable pregnancy but which has never provided a sufficient structure for dealing with the psychological and physiological damage of abortion, particularly repeat abortions. And what of the many doctors, family members, and friends who sat back and watched as Vilar tried to destroy her own body? Vilar lets them off the hook without much protest.


Vilar’s story is not one for the faint-hearted, nor is it for adamant pro-life or pro-choice advocates. The questions surrounding Vilar’s multiple pregnancies, her legal right to choose, her recognition of and desire for the many lives conceived within her womb but whose voices were silenced before they were even heard are necessarily messy questions.  Vilar’s life is a chaotic, disordered one and she doesn’t shy away from showing just how confused she was for most of her adult life. One of the truths her story demonstrates is that by insisting on the right to “sex on demand” with whomever and whenever we want, protected from all physical consequences like pregnancy, we have forgotten that sex carries with it incredible power, a power which can be abused and a power which can be destructive. Vilar’s husband was guilty of abusing that power. Whether Vilar was ever conscious of abusing that power is hard to say; it’s certainly possible to question whether a 17-year-old girl, suffering from scars related to her mother’s suicide, separated from her surviving parent by thousands of miles, and involved in relationship with a man old enough to be her father, can exercise a completely conscious right to choose.


Ultimately, the line separating Vilar’s belief in her right to choose and her recognition of the life within is very, very thin—almost non-existent. When she is pregnant for the sixteenth time, a pregnancy she carries to term, she describes the ultrasound of her daughter taken eighteen weeks before she was born. “The ultrasound images show clearly a miniature head tilted back, an arm raised up, with the hand pointing back toward the face. It would have been possible and permissible to end her life at this point” (208).


Thus Vilar ends the final chapter of her book, completely blurring the line between pro-life and pro-choice politics as she recognizes her daughter’s existence and acknowledges the many times she had, in the past, exercised her right to choose.

Military Abortion Bans

Religion Dispatches has published an interesting article on military policies on pregnancy and abortion leading single female members of the military who have an unplanned pregnancy to choose between ending their career or self-aborting. Read it here.

Miscarriage (III)

–after Hayek’s Frida

by Robin Silbergleid


Here again:: 
                Three women:
fancy drinks with a pink parasols,
endless pots of Chinese tea.

The air around me smells
of nausea and nameless grief.
(Garlic, I think, ginger).  Now
again, she begins

and the words
mother     baby     hospital
and the words, they
collect on the table
like used dishes, and I am there
thirty years ago, three pounds
(smaller than a Sunday chicken)
eight ounces
and here all at once,
birthday for a child who shouldn’t have been:

my mother gowned
in a sterile room, a doll’s bottle
in her shaking hand, seven weeks
early and none too soon
and here, now, my mother
with her grownup girl, me
drinking pink drinks
because I’m alive
and, oh,
            oh, oh–

2.  Once I collected fortunes
and favorite numbers, thirty
and the year of the rat, used
tissues lint my pockets
and my mother and my aunt
who won’t stop talking
I wanted to tell you I’m sorry
about the baby, sorry you lost           

and the baby who won’t be
sits heavy in my pelvis
the placenta that tried so hard still
pumping blood to his stumped cells
I’ve been dreaming
of this for years–
                            it all bleeds together–
           Frida Kahlo, the actress, me
           writhing (how many miscarriages?)
           a crimson tub, a blood-stained sheet. 
           This thing that hasn’t happened yet–
           (he came out of me in pieces)

an image from a painting, a movie set,
the diary of a woman between.

Robin Silbergleid is the author of the chapbook Pas de Deux: Prose  and Other Poems (Basilisk, 2006). Her poems and essays have appeared in journals including Dislocate, Crab Orchard Review, The Truth About the Fact and The Cream City Review, for which she was nominated for a Pushcart Prize.  A survivor of pregnancy loss and single mother to a spirited five-year-old, Robin is a regular contributor to the online journal Exhale. She is current assistant professor of English at Michigan State University. The Fertile Source published her poem “A Poem For My Son On His Due Date” in September.

Inspired Birth and Families

Fertile Source’s Editor, Jessica Powers, will be presenting tonight at Inspired Birth and Families in Albuquerque, N.M. so we won’t post today as normal.

Anybody is welcome to attend: Inspired Birth and Families, 6-8 p.m., 4916 4th St. Northwest.

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