I see so many things, a primitive ring,
a nest with a fallen-out bottom,
a white rubber band snapped into blue.
But mostly it's real memory
and the doctor holding up my x-ray
to the screen of light, a mini drive-in.
The bone was mine—big, oblong
and intact, even though my skin was purple,
my muscles sore. I'd fallen
off of Matthew's ten speed.
There were whispers that my hymen was probably gone,
first broken by the cross bar
that separates a boy's bike from a girl's,
rather than by Matthew himself. And now the x-rays
were showing my ready pelvis, an empty hammock,
just waiting for a sticky fetus sucking its thumb.
"It's beautiful," the doctor said
admiring my illuminated centerfold skeleton
before he turned to me, the real—and therefore
less interesting—thing. He smiled:
"You have the perfect hip bones, miss,
for carrying babies." To my mother he said,
"If everything else inside her is OK, someday
she'll be in labor for no more than an hour."
I was thirteen and I wanted no baby,
only a boyfriend, only some petting.
I wasn't even sure how I felt
about tongues. My favorite game was
swimming deep underwater, kicking through
a tent of spread legs, scissoring my thighs
in short quick ups and downs so I wouldn't lose
by booting someone in the crotch.
"But I don't want a baby," I might have said aloud.
My bone was a whorl in an x-ray-gray storm.
My disembodied pelvis, like a melted Hula Hoop.
"The women in our family are all Fertile Myrtles,"
my mother explained later. "When I got
pregnant with you, I think I was just
looking at your father," she said as emphatically
as if she were telling me the truth. So I found out how to get
a diaphragm and pills and foams and condoms and used them
all at once, memorizing the percentages
of their individual effectiveness: 80, 82, 89.5.
"I'm pregnant, I just know it,"
I would panic every month.
Exasperated, my first real boyfriend would remind me,
"Impossible. We didn't even have intercourse last month.
Remember? You were too nervous." In the meantime,
my girlfriends, one by one, skipped their periods.
There were trips for abortions or quick marriages.
One young mother left high school
to become a cashier at the Stop & Shop.
While she was still nursing, she leaked milk
through her shirt and smock, leaving
something like a perspiration spot
every time a baby cried in her line.
This wasn't for me, though I felt guilty,
my pelvis being the right shape and all.
My mother watched her talk shows, sometimes
on the topic of childless women, and muttered,
"How can those career ladies be so selfish?
If they don't have babies now,
they'll grow old and die alone."
Sometimes in my dreams I'm back on Matthew's bike,
not falling this time, but riding off
into the orange-cowboy sunset. Other times,
though, a crown of thorns sprouts in my belly—
my nightmare grows dark.
It is always daylight around Georgia's Pelvises.
The sky is the blue that the child she might have had
might have seen when he was first born.
Sometimes I dream bluebirds land on my hip bone
as though I were a round limb
on a desert tree. I feed them anything
they desire. Then the mother birds
feed their youngsters, and I tell them
they can stay as long as they like.
Queen for a Day
University of Pittsburgh Press
Copyright © 2001
All rights reserved.
Reproduced by mamazine.com with permission of the author.
Denise Duhamel's most recent poetry titles are Two and Two, (University of Pittsburgh Press, 2005), Mille et un sentiments (Firewheel, 2005) and Queen for a Day (Pittsburgh, 2001). She is an associate professor who teaches poetry at Florida International University in Miami.