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Saraswati praises your name even when you have no choice

By Purvi Shah

“Patel, a 33-year-old woman who lives in Indiana, was accused of feticide – specifically, illegally inducing her own abortion – and accused of having a baby whom she allowed to die. The facts supporting each count are murky, but a jury convicted Patel and she was sentenced to 20 years in prison.” – Emily Bazelon


You had a name no one

could hold between their

                              teeth. So they pronounced

               a sentence. Had you the choice,

you would pilgrim

to the Vermilion. It is no

Ganges, but you could dream for tiger’s

                              blood, for eight tributaries to open

into palms bearing girls unfettered. Before your baby

was a baby,                      could it float? Could

a stillness of breath                     be the air asking

for alchemy                       as you cast your life as a spell? These days

the world is looking                      for witches. You had been

searching for a day        beyond labor, option

of pleasure, a choice unscripted

by parents, borders unscripted

by choices, a passing

salvation. You had not

expected this state – punishment

for a wrung womb. These days

you mourn: when                       you are free, you won’t

be able to bear               the children you

wanted. In silence, you pronounce                     your name as if it came

from the crucible of river, from the first                             throat broken

                                                            into a cobra of desiccated streams.

Added: Thursday, May 18, 2017  /  Used with permission. Second place award recipient in the Sixth Annual Abortion Rights Poetry Contest (2017).
Purvi Shah
Photo by Willi Wong.

Purvi Shah inspires change as a non-profit consultant on gender, economics, and racial equity. She won the inaugural SONY South Asian Social Service Excellence Award for her leadership fighting violence against women. Her award-winning poetry book, Terrain Tracks (New Rivers Press, 2006), plumbs migrations and belongings while her chaplet, Dark Lip of the Beloved: Sound Your Fiery God-Praise (Belladonna, 2016), explores women and being. Miracle Marks (Curbstone Press), her new poetry collection on women and the sacred, is forthcoming in Fall 2019. During the 10th anniversary of 9/11, she directed Together We Are New York, a community-based poetry project to highlight Asian American voices and experiences. She currently serves as a board member of The Poetry Project. Her favorite art practices are her sparkly eyeshadow and raucous laughter. Discover more at Purvo's twitter @PurviPoets or at her website

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