The National Catholic Review

A young woman in her flimsy medical gown
squirms frightened on the table
like a kitten laid on its back. See her stomach’s

stretch, small but taut as a cantaloupe. For months
her body has slept curled up—a peach
wrapped soft around its pit.

Bulbous and feeding, her boyfriend described it. Just a dangling
ripeness, shaken by the wind at the edge of its branch.
But on nights there was no wind,

still it stirred: rose up within her like an extra breath,
her body twice alive. Now the needle numbs, but not enough.
Still she hurts, gasping small caskets

of tears. Favorite names fall from her mouth
in high, loose notes like handfuls of rolling coins.
A nurse brings a prescription notepad

so she can bite down—the taste of paper forever recalling
this trade of what is, for what once
was not. This sound of suction and the redness

of spilled pomegranate pulled through a tube
to slowly fill the basin. The doctor counting to be sure all the pieces
are there—one open, tiny hand

clamping his throat shut as tight as a fist. A sudden quiet
focuses its lens. The woman falls back, withered
with relief, the white walls sheening

like the sweat across her brow. Soon the fragments will be tossed
into the plastic shroud of a trash bin.
Soon the nurse, too, will cry,

scrubbing out fingerprints the size of strawberry seeds
from the inside of the basin. She knows
only one set remains, ferried inside

the woman being led to her car:
small swirls of toe prints pressed into her womb
one windless hour of the night.

Courtney Kampa, a published poet, is pursuing a master of fine arts degree at Columbia University.

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