19.

This boy dangles the keys in front of us.
His dad’s keys.
Keys to the state capitol building.
Keys to get us into its dome.

It’s night.
It has to be.
We wear dark clothing.
It’s like he’s done it before,
leading us down hallways,
knowing where the janitors are cleaning.

We step lightly,
me and these three boys.
He opens a door off a hallway,
ushers us in,
closes it behind us.

We are in the dome
about to go higher.
No flashlights.
No voices.

My hands absorb cold
from arced brick walls.
We climb a narrow metal staircase
that this boy told us spirals nearly 60 feet up.
This dome’s DNA.

We reach the top
then sink into unmeasured silence,
soaking in this hallowed space
looking through its portholes
onto Helena tonight.

I search for the porthole
to the Sleeping Giant
and think I see it,
like my childhood,
barely silhouetted
way out there
beneath the moon.

—bw

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18.

Do I love him?
Do I love him?

Only three years ago,
I was singing along with David Cassidy.
Kissing his face on our television set.
Yearning.

I go downtown, and roam around
but every street I walk, I find another dead end.

None of the boys I liked ever noticed me.
I was the girl who’d never been kissed.

I’m on my own, but I’m so all alone
I need somebody, so I don’t have to pretend.

Enter this boy.
He walked into the room.
He turned his smile on me
melting me
into somebody else.

Do I love him?
I was thinking so. Maybe.
He’s different now.
Maybe he always was.
Maybe.
Do I love him?

Last Saturday, at a kegger near Rimini,
he took an axe to a Forest Service campground sign
throwing pieces of it in the fire.

It hardened my heart
when he laughed.
When his friends laughed.

I don’t know what I’m up against
I don’t know what it’s all about
I’ve got so much to think about

I bind my fear to pomegranate seeds
and feed it to this boy
because I don’t want to let
him go.

—bw

  

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The italicized sections of text are from two songs that David Cassidy and The Partridge Family performed in the 1970s. The first two are from “Doesn’t Somebody Want to Be Wanted” lyrics by Mike Appel, Jim Cretecos, and Wes Farrell. The last one is from “I Think I Love You” lyrics by Tony Romeo.

17.

It’s lunchtime. The sun is shining.
Dreading a quadratic equation mastery test,
I lean against the cold bricks of Capital High School,
quickly running through flashcards.
Cold brings focus.

This boy, who lives crosstown,
pulls up now in his miserable Vega.
Get in he says, grinning.
His big wig dad’s out of town.
We have all afternoon.
I look around.
Get in he says, grin beginning to fade.
I get in.
No time for mother called ill.
Grin comes back.

This boy’s mother smiles and serves us tea.
She turns up the volume on the stereo.
We go to his room,
where we fuck until our bodies collapse on each other.
Our breathing slows.
Here we are solving quadratic equations.
I laugh.

He tells me to be serious.
He asks me if I think about it.
About what we did.
About our baby.

I can’t hear him,
because I hear my dad’s voice upstairs yelling
at this boy’s mom.

I get dressed as fast as I can
and run upstairs
to Get in the car. Now.

They know.
They know their version of everything.
They don’t ask for mine.

Distraught silence makes the air heavy in the Maverick.
Halfway across town, almost home,
we cross the viaduct.
Dad turns, face red.

Do you love him?!
Do you love him?!

I shrink. I think so.

You think so?!

These don’t feel like questions.

I stop talking.

In my head,
I picture the Maverick combusting from the inside out.
Beneath this moment’s weight,
I picture the viaduct collapsing.

Then I picture Hightower, the bum,
sleeping under cardboard where we fall.

I remember when he played guitar and sang
for me and some other kids at Memorial Park.
He doesn’t deserve this.
None of us do. It’s buried. It’s gone.

…with all memory and fate
Driven deep beneath the waves
Let me forget about today until tomorrow

Hey! Mr. Tambourine man, play a song for me
I’m not sleepy and there is no place I’m going to
Hey! Mr. Tambourine man, play a song for me
In the jingle jangle morning I’ll come following you

Dad pulls the Maverick into our drive.

–bw

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Excerpt from Mr. Tambourine Man, Bob Dylan 1965

16.

The teddy bear surprise this boy gave me,
lies at the bottom of my trash can.
Its cheap plastic eyes bored holes through me.

He wanted me to love it.
He wants me to love him.
He needs me to love him.
It feels like I’m supposed to.
I’m afraid not to.

Sidewinding life,
I bury my truth.
It slinks inside me like a snake.
Coiling.
Constricting.
It feeds on itself.
A serpentine spiral.
A mouth too full to speak.

I chase annihilation.
Beer. This boy.
His tongue is like a snake.
I kiss him like I mean it.
I get lost inside my lie.

He is appeased.
This boy.
He is pleased.

Together we slither and hiss.

—bw

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15.

I wake up feeling pregnant with this secret
that nothing can abort.

On my back
I feel a target.
A clinic about to be bombed.
An explosion waiting to happen.
I fear the rising daggers of the righteous
who hold up bloody signs
jeering.

There’s a billboard on Montana Avenue
two tiny feet in large doctor hands, captioned
“This child won’t keep its mother awake at night.”

No. It won’t.
It was never a child.
It was cells dividing.
It didn’t have feet.
It had flippers.

What will keep me awake is your billboard.
What will keep me awake is the bombing
of four abortion clinics in Ohio last spring
(Feb-March 1978).
What will keep me awake is this forced secret.
This fear of exposure.
Knowing that legions of people would picture me in Hell.
Knowing some of them might want to put me there.

I woke up feeling pregnant with this secret
that nothing can abort.
A secret giving birth to this pariah.

To this pariah.

me.

—bw

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14.

When sleep finally finds me,
my dreams are filled with pomegranate seeds
raining from the sky,
pelting me,
staining everything red.
The boy is there.
He says they are the seeds of our love.
He says they change everything they touch.
Like us, he says.
He moves toward me
and the dream cracks open,
spilling me out like an egg.

My body jerks me awake
and I feel the juicy pulp of pomegranate
seep in clots from my anti-
birth canal.

It’s 3 am
and I think I will die.

My folks are asleep down the hall.

I tiptoe to the toilet
where my body drops clots.
Lots of clots.
My uterus keeps grinding out what’s left.

please stop bleeding
please stop bleeding
please stop bleeding

It’s 4 am
and I think I will live.

I’m not sure how I feel about that,
or if I’ll ever eat pomegranates again.

—bw

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13.

Afraid of the procedure
I’ve punched myself in the stomach every morning
until today. The day we drive to Missoula
where melting city snow sloshes up street grime.

Entering the facility
I wipe my feet a dozen times
on the ribbed black mats that cover the foyer
not wanting my own grime reflected
in the hospital shine.

We hold hands,
this boy and me,
walking down sterile corridors,
whirring up an elevator,
feeling almost shy.

Then down the hall,
to the left,
on these chairs,
we wait.
They call my name.
He kisses my cheek.
Squeezes my hand.
Says you’ll be fine.
Smiles.

A hospital gown.
A bed with wheels.
I think of other things.
A pill to calm.
A pill for pain.
I nod when I’m supposed to.
I do what I’m told.

I’m awake when it’s aspirated.
When it stops feeding.
When it dies.

Left in a room
for a time
by myself
empty eats me alive.

Out the window, snow falls.

Afterward this boy,
this boy squeezes my hand a little too hard.
It hurts and he laughs.

On the drive home
he talks about all the other babies we will have.
He tells me he will love me forever.
He wants me to tell him the same thing.

I’m so empty
I never want children
how can he feel this way now?

He needs to know that I will always love him.
He wants me to tell him now.

I want to get away
only one more hour
only one more hour

To quiet him, I lie.
I tell him I’ll love him forever.
He holds my hand across the seat.
Pulls it closer.
Says he’s sorry for today.
For everything we had to go through.
We drive like that for a while.
Holding hands and quiet.

Later, he drops me off a couple blocks from my house.
Says he’ll see me tomorrow after school.
He has something he wants to give me.
I walk home,
tell my mom I don’t feel well,
throw up, and
go to my room.

My mom brings me a cup of chicken broth and some toast.
She brushes my feathered bangs from my forehead
and tucks my quilt along the edges of my body.

Rest, she says.

We’ll see about school tomorrow.

—bw

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