John Grey, The Way You Tell It

The Way You Tell It

Your story is always
of a body stretched
and convoluted
to its very limits,
and your unholy fear
as the baby’s head gatecrashes
the vagina, the feeling
of all your insides
squeezing out of you,
your abdomen, your intestines,
your kidneys, even your heart,
gone forever just so
another life can emerge
into the arms of a masked man
while you stare,
from your dazed pain world,
into the blank white face
of a nurse.
It felt like
some mad scientist’s slab
is how you tell it,
too-bright overhead lights,
fueled by lightning no doubt,
and whispers spinning
around the room
but no information
coming your way.

After a bout
with sheer agony,
a strange purple
creature was raised
in triumph by the surgeon.
Was it a wolf pup?
A lamb? An alien?
And what of the dead snake
that rubber hands were untangling?
And the fumes of burning blood?
A towel appeared from nowhere,
licked the baby clean.
An army of hands
scrubbed and taped and sewed
you back together.

They shoved the product
of your pain
into your unsteady arms,
stared down at you,
demanding you love it,
whatever it was.
Its eyes slowly opened
and looked up at you indifferently.
It couldn’t care less for your story.
It was already working on its own.


What do you want?
Nakedness within reason?
Breasts? Oral?
Why can’t you tell me?

I don’t know what I want.
It’s not that simple.
No words – I want pictures.
Different pictures.

Ice cream on the belly button?
Hair up in a bun
or down to my waist?

Not even close.

(She starts screaming.)
Should I stand on my head?
Should I juggle three tennis balls
while shaving my legs?

You’ve got the idea.
Now run with it.

Should I jerk out my eyes?
Cut off both ears?
Should I stab myself
with a bread knife
right through the heart?

I promise you
I’ll know it
when I see it.
Think outside of the box.
No, wait a minute,
think inside of the box.

Why don’t I just open it.

You can do that?

John Grey is an Australian poet, US resident. Recently he was published in Examined Life Journal, Evening Street Review, and Columbia Review and he has work forthcoming in Harpur Palate, Poetry East and Midwest Quarterly.

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