I doubt that any candle quivered in Ireland.In paper gowns we waited on folding chairs.The married one hadn’t even told her husband.Darlene, my friend with horses, drove me there.No judgment was made about what had happened.The doors stayed open on the fourth of July,the air all day singed with celebration.Our bodies were in our own custody.Maybe walking out, some girls felt freebut dreamed that night about a boy whose handwas blown off by a cherry bomb one year.At picnics they would have their answers planned:Yes, the boyfriend’s okay, just save a burgerin case he gets off work and stops by later.
In case he got off work and stopped by latershe wouldn’t have to tell him anythingexcept that it was over and she felt better.Our bodies were in our own custody,and we could return, or not, to the self-care meetingto take turns with our legs open on the table, [End Page 76] holding a mirror between them instructivelyas we each looked down at our own labia.I doubt that any candle quivered in Ireland.One girl’s legs shook because her thighs got cold.The married one still hadn’t told her husband.When I climbed up to examine myself below,my fingers slipped—I broke the plastic speculum—a volunteer handed me another one.
A volunteer helped the next girl climb up—the girl’s voice breaking—she had no ideaexactly when it happened or whose it was.We had to look down at our own labia,in silent consultation with ourselves,adjusting who we’d carry in our headsand for how long and who was safe to telland when to turn the lights off and pretendto be asleep, in case he stopped by later.By September I could walk straight past his dorm.Maybe the girl who cried was feeling better.Eventually he might not know my name,but I saw the space for his on every form.I left it blank. My body wrote it down. [End Page 77]
Debra Bruce’s latest book of poetry, Survivors’ Picnic, was published in 2012 by Word-Tech Communications (WordTech Editions). She has appeared in many publications, including the Atlantic, Cincinnati Review, Poetry, Prairie Schooner, and others.