We play billie holiday at the abortion clinic. Billie Holliday & Hot 98.7, the best hip-hop you can get in the chemical valley. The music drowns out the protestors prayer-screams; even the clouds dance, the pavement gyrates. It is the first day of spring and the daffodils stand straight as children anxious to be older. We are clinic escorts in west-by-god-by-god-virginia at the last abortion provider in the entire state. The Women's Health Center provides abortion care to patients who have no where else to go twice a week, wednesdays thursdays. They find a way to fund procedures for those who can't pay the steep bill, common since West Virginia outlawed the use of medicaid funds to pay for abortions. They are doing god's work.
We hold up a walmart-blue tarp over the google-stock-image baby posters as the cars as slow crawl in to the fenced-in parking lot, the protesters surrounding us like stuck insects. Escorts weave out of the clinic and over to the women with open black umbrellas to prevent the protesters from filming the patient's faces. Their faces are pinched, lined with worry and strained from long drives. We hold them for a moment in quiet benevolence; "you are blessed", we say with soft hands clutching their tattooed elbows and turtle-curved backs, "you are blessed" we say with our spines stiff as limestone, our mouths straight and our chins held high.
The protestors, the anti-choicers, the forced birthers, explode like a rupturing muscle behind the parking-lot fence. They wield their babies like odd weapons, their eyes full of worry and confusion as the shrill prayers interrupt the lego-castle construction and bouncey-ball toss. They form a ring and pray like boxers, beat their bibles against the sun-ripe road as if they will usher up hell to come and swallow us. They ask us if our mother's know we're here. My mother held my hand when I had an abortion, made me soup and told me I was so good, so worthy.
The women walk out with slow feet and unswollen bellies. Billie croons "God Bless the Child that got his own, that got his own," with a sweet rasp that rings through the march sky like cicadas. The light lingers on the women as they walk to their cars, filters over their pink crew-necks and strong shoulders blades, flows deep into the sweet summer they still have inside of them, through the promise they have made to a future that they can bear, that they can own.
it was three days after the last snow
of the past her welcome winter
and the fog felt up the shoulders of peters mountain,
stood between the pawing of our threadbare hands
like a cottony ocean,
like the glistening insides of the milky oats
just opening their long mouths
on the crooked elbow of the trail
crisp slipping beneath us,
the slow click of your
long bootprints against the mud,
the forest scratching
the wet second skin of our plastic parkas,
the pipe ringing close like a dull scream,
the fog breathing closer, gathering the crease of her damp dress,
your hand unraveling,
the white pines roaring under sheets of limestone,
how quickly the legs can forget
which direction they are going,
the mountain threatening to swallow
the bitter and cold and half clutched hook of our bodies
whole as a morning swallows a dream.
what I once thought of walking
splinters under the husk of
a grey sonoran moon
in the mesquite desert.
when the walkers cross
they powder their footsteps,
drink a silent coffee
and hum a slow prayer
that sings through the metatarsals,
through the stars sieved between
our hard kingdoms.
the helicopters clatter up the long night,
flash out like open-eyed mosquitoes,
la migra hunting,
the desert howling back
like a holy animal.
the walkers unbend their feet,
cover the blisters with wax and benediction,
wait with us with low smiles and bright belt buckles,
cook tortillas and carry the map of this
heavy planet on their backs.
I once thought it fluid,
the simple slip of thighs
over miles of roots and insect and dirt.
I once thought it unmolested and eternal,
smooth as a curl of sand,
clear as a striping river.
There are bones in the navel of this
desert only the jackrabbits know.
There are walkers who's steps
pat on forever, stubborn as the
mouthy horizon, as the august rain.
the honeyscukle scorches.
I collapse into the pool of your
hairy belly &
the crab-skin of your sun-split
forearms & the
seashells crinkle benath us
like glittery ghosts &
the sand is grey with
firework dust & the ocean
sparkles and swallows the
pasty-ankles of well-fed children
and the women wear
gushing beach bags and
shiny mosquito eyes
and the sharks circle slowly,
wait for the blush of blood in salt,
and the flag hangs like a flat scar
against the rosehips and
you and I trace our kid curses
in the pulp of muscles of seaweed
and the big sad aches on,
and the camps grow crowded
and the oil war whistles
and the sky suddenly explodes.