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Blog for Choice Day: Poetry

January 22, 2010
Gwendolyn Brooks, Miami Book Fair Internationa...
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Trust Women means, in part, that women do not need to be protected from the consequences of our actions, that we have a right to decide what is best for our bodies and ourselves even when those decisions may result in unpleasant feelings or consequences. There are, after all very few choices to be made in this world which will lead to perfect outcomes.

It means that when we read The Mother by Gwendolyn Brooks, we are reading the words of a woman grieving over the children that she did not have even as she addresses those children, but we are also reading the words of a woman who made a choice fully aware of the sadness it might bring. Consider the ending:

Believe me, I loved you all.
Believe me, I knew you, though faintly, and I loved, I loved you

She does not say “I could have loved you.” She does not say “I realized I loved you too late.” No, she simply says she loved these children who-never-were. She loved them when she made her choice. Her grief does not mean that she needs someone to have saved her from herself or that she did not understand. It is, simply, grief. We do not learn the reasons why she made this choice because they do not matter: what matters is that she made the right choice for herself.Anne Sexton expresses a similar grief in The Abortion. As she describes her journey to a place where abortions were performed, she repeats elegaic lines:

Somebody who should have been born
is gone.

She mourns, but in the end, she claims her own power by describing the abortion in active rather than passive terms:

Yes, woman, such logic will lead
to loss without death. Or say what you meant,
you coward…this baby that I bleed.

With that “I” statement, when she speaks of her own actions and her own choice, she is no longer a coward. She is no longer afraid.

Women are empowered when we are allowed to decide for ourselves. You cannot respect women and, at the same time, not trust us to decide which consequences we want to face. This, of course, applies to much more than abortion. It applies to the decision to have children. It applies to the decision to have sex. Trust Women means let us decide for ourselves and do not imagine that we are incapable of understanding or facing what our choices mean.

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