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Women vs. Ernie

By Bridget Kriner

This is what I know about being a woman:
My body is coursing with estrogen,
I have a uterus, my breasts fit into bras
that are fashionable, men look at them.
Once a month, my uterus lets go
of its contents and there is blood for days.

I am not immune to the messages.
I read Cosmo and think:
This is what I am supposed to look like,
what I am supposed to buy,
I am supposed to eat,
not supposed to say,
should never even think.
It goes on like this all the time.
I buy. I eat. I apply lipstick.

Ernie is outside the abortion clinic.
He stands there with his sign,
thinks he will change some minds
because he has God
and patriarchy,
a picture of a bloody fetus,
and the force of his own ego
on his side.

I know women who have had abortions.
Real abortions that look nothing
like Ernie’s sign.
Abortions that keep them up late
Praying for clarity.
Deciding what is best.
Taking their time.

Your sister, my cousin,
my next door neighbor,
and my aunt Sarah,
the lady in line ahead of me
at the grocery store with 26 items,
the cashier in that express lane
who is pissed,
Sandy who does your taxes,
Jenny from yoga class,
Carol from the church choir,
and me.

He says it so clearly:
You need to be ashamed
of your body, its weakness,
yourself, your woman-ness.
Keep this secret.
Keep your mouth shut
And your legs closed.

Does he speak to his mother with that mouth?
In my dream, she cleans it out with soap.
She even washes away the name she gave him.
He is only misogyny now, with a face,
and a mouth and a sign.

This is what I want misogyny
with his sign to know: 
I want what I want.  I need what I need.
This body is a gift from that same God.
He gave it to me
because he knew I could be trusted.
He said to me in a prayer:
You know what to do, and when.

Added: Thursday, July 24, 2014  /  Kriner's poem won First Place in the 2012 Abortion Rights Poetry Contest. Split This Rock is proud to co-sponsor this contest with the Abortion Care Network.

Bridget Kriner is a poet, writer, artist, and student from Cleveland, Ohio. Her poems have appeared in Whiskey Island, Poetry Motel, and Nerve Cowboy. Recently, she has performed her work with Whisper to a Scream, a feminist performance art collective. Currently, she teaches English at Cuyahoga Community College and is pursuing a PhD in Urban Education from Cleveland State University. She lives in Cleveland with her husband and their three cats.

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