Skip to Content

judgement call

By Amber Flame

like hearbreak, you are sure
that your story is different. felt
not worst but not exactly
explainable to anyone else. even or
especially the ones who told their stories.
you wrote about it the same way too,
just like, "dear heartbreak, never has there
been a _________ like this" but
the poems never went anywhere. could
not finish themselves. you
didn't tell many people. it didn't feel
good to be surrounded by silent nodding
or worse, reassurances full of pity.

the day after the _____________, you are
sure you are a stupid girl. that this is
all the proof. you are sure that some
thing huge is over. the ground shook.
the wave crashed. you had an _____________.
you are sure you are the damages.
the day after is when you have a drink
or three without guilt. the decision done and
gone. that day you have retreated to
a neighborhood where no one would say they
think you were a stupid girl. not even if
they could see the damaged parts. the day after
you have an ______________, you see
the incongruous-to-this-neighborhood conservative sign.
it says what you have done is murder.

you may be sure now that you are a stupid girl.
and all your world has tumbled. but you never
would say you had done murder. this is not
true, you grew up knowing. fact. it is what you used
to say. then. this is why you
flatten your mouth around the word. whisper it.
you tuck it like a secret behind
your stated beliefs. now. you know better,
stupid or not.

you will meet another stupid girl. she
laughs loudly, says _____________ was
the smartest thing she could do about it. she is
crude and hilarious. you find yourself silently nodding
your head and you force yourself to stop.
her story is different. for her story, you can
stretch lips into smile you stop apologizing
for. know it is unexplainable, like heartbreak.
know you both should have the ending
of your choice.

Added: Tuesday, April 14, 2015  /  Amber Flame's poem was awarded third prize in the 2015 Abortion Rights Poetry Contest, co-sponsored by the Abortion Care Network and Split This Rock. We thank the special guest judge, Katha Pollitt, for her generosity and discernment.
Amber Flame
Courtesy of author.

Amber Flame is an interdisciplinary artist and writer, whose work has garnered residencies with Hedgebrook, The Watering Hole, Vermont Studio Center, Pink Door, and YEFE NOF. Flame has been published in diverse arenas, including Def Jam Poetry, Winter Tangerine, The Dialogist, Split This Rock, Black Heart Magazine, Sundress Publications, FreezeRay, Redivider Journal and more. A 2016 and 2017 Pushcart Prize nominee, and Jack Straw Writer Program alum, Amber Flame's first full-length poetry collection, Ordinary Cruelty, was published in 2017 through Write Bloody Press. Flame was a recipient of the CityArtist grant from Seattle's Office of Arts and Culture to write, produce and perform her play, Hands Above the Covers. Flame serves as Hugo House's 2017-2019 Writer-in-Residence for Poetry.

Other poems by this author