Caolan Madden

TW: abortion, miscarriage 


A Story



Once upon a time a girl got pregnant so she had to have an abortion.
(You know this one, right? You still know this one.)
For some reason they made her wait for one month. Maybe it was paperwork.
Maybe it was like buying a gun. At any rate she and her boyfriend and their embryo

(or was it a fetus already) hid out in their kitchen until the time came; you call this

confinement.  They gave the embryo a name like

like Beast or Peanut. They noticed what it liked to eat

and what it didn’t like; when it roared or slept; they picked up its messages

at her throat and breasts. The family snuggled close:

mother, father, Peanut or Beast.
Then her confinement ended and she received her abortion.



A Framing Story


I was the one at the beginning of the story listening.
(How else would I have been able to tell it to you?)
I was the one at the end of the story clutching my coffee cup,
saying “How could they give it a name? How could they, knowing?”


But also I hated that particular girl, that was part of it.
(How could you possibly have expected a reliable narrator? This is the framing story.)


A Commentary


(Because if I knew where this was going, if I knew what this was going to be I would give it a name. Now I get it. If I knew what was going to happen I could name it beast or peanut or Caligula. If I knew there would definitely be a face or definitely not be a face. If I knew I would definitely never hear a cry or if I knew I would definitely hear a cry. If I knew definitely what would grip my little finger or if I knew definitely nothing in particular would grip my little finger. I could say that one there, I could say not that other one, that particular one, the one in the blue ______, the one in the lace ______, I could say she)


(Because so now I still hate that particular girl but I like her story, I stole it, so I owe her)


(Because I can say this)


(Because I can say you because of the history of poetry, like I say you to the west wind, to melancholy, to an absent friend, to my father calcified, to the black snake that was my baby first)


(Because I don’t feel she or her I only feel a tunneling a bolt)


(Because it turns out you are barely a girl, I’m barely a girl, I’m no woman, it turns out this is not how to woman, I am speaking from the place of experience and I say if there is one how it turns out to be some other how)


(Because it is however how to animal)


(Because it is however how to one way to love like when you wonder where is the evidence that this is love and there is no evidence only faith and what you wrote in the diary and in the letter and under the desk and on the valentine and in the email and on the cake and you are like all this text, I doubt it and you write a commentary on the text and it is the same as the text or in fact it is even longer and more true. And you are like il n’ya pas de horstexte and you believe it and that your body is a text but then there is a tunneling a bolt and you are smiling at the oddly hostile roomful of young men and women with their texts in front of them and you are like something is inside or outside and it’s something new and you want to tell them but they might know already, or they might not, so you only say What is the tenor for the foot in the river sand? What is the tenor for the river sand itself? What is the tenor for the avalanche? and they begin, slowly and with some hostility, to dig, and you listen, in the spaces between their many breathings, for the tenor)


(Because until then you know only the vehicle, the foot, the river sand, the avalanche: it, it, it)


(Because beast, peanut, bubble, apple, avalanche, shudder, grace, flea, is not Beast not Peanut not Sophie not Emma not Grace not Flea)


(Because it is my confinement, it waits, it will end the story and open and then I will say) (and ____)





in solidarity with Purvi Patel

Months I was only a vessel, months steered by a Krang-brain in my belly, months a ghost ate all my meals for me, only cereal only watermelon, months the operator looked at me in the bathroom mirror at the Showcase Seekonk & made me put my hands under the dryer, made me open the door, made me hate a movie for the first time in my life, months I handed the apparatus over for checkups, the apparatus was working well, months I asked for instructions on working the apparatus, months of faithful service to the instructions, faithful service of the apparatus, wind it down at night, hate that city block, hate that toy store, hate that sandwich, hate that book, feed the apparatus, begin to wait to die


The t-shirt that said MINE over a screenprint of a uterus. “Not just yours,” Paul’s mother said. “Not anymore.” Paul said, “but the politics of the shirt”


The difference it makes when there’s a man to remind everyone that it’s still your body. The difference it makes to be one of two white bodies. Three potentially white bodies. The difference it makes as a wedded wife. The difference it makes to be two white bodies wedded together, two gold rings, the language of perfect happiness, language of We Want This.


NuvaRing I threw in the trash. Not making another appointment. Tequila gimlet, prosecco, boxed wine, joint. Beer on a boat. Bad cigarette. Forgot about folic acid. Trying not trying. “There’s nothing they can do about it, the fuckers!” Thrill of nobody knowing. I’m just allowed to. Am I allowed to?


Months of bodily joy. Months beginning in a hotel pool in California. Maternity bathing suit, February, floating, the water moving against my body, my body moving against the water, here it is again, my body, displacing the beautiful world, becoming the beautiful world. Months on the couch in Brooklyn, holding Paul’s hand, joy in my blood like drugs, a huge slow blossom. Months of getting to know you, Jane, though I wouldn’t call you Jane, still called you it. Months of getting to love you as you made yourself known as a squirmer, kicker, not just a Krang-brain, months of getting to love you for your kindness, little pusher, making me feel so good, knowing for the first time in years what it feels like not to feel anxious


The difference it makes to sit on a fucking couch in Brooklyn, to swim in a fucking pool, fucking maternity bathing suit, fucking half-caff latte, fucking holding hands, fucking. Fucking late-night nurseline. The difference it makes that I called and said “I’m having some spotting, I’m 11 weeks.” The difference it makes nuchal translucency the difference it makes genetic screening the difference it makes fucking OB practice in Soho fucking prenatal screening for PPD risk factors fucking anatomy scan fucking if you would consider terminating


The difference it makes that this is all in fucking English


The difference it makes that my mom


The politics of the fucking shirt


Months of am I allowed to


Swimming in the 40-degree Atlantic, maternity bathing suit, huge body displacing huge ocean, awe. A body in hot water in a body in cold water. Bodily joy. The sky. “My extremities would freeze first, right?” I asked Patrick. We agreed that I’d lose a toe first. We lay on the beach burning & shivering. Later Molly said “your lips were blue, I didn’t want to tell you then.”


Google “hypothermia fetus” Google “avoid swimming pregnancy” Google “ocean cold bacteria” Google “mucus plug” Google “staying up all night miscarriage” Google “iced coffee miscarriage” Google “dissertation chapter miscarriage” Google “lavender miscarriage” Google “soft cheese” Google “Listeria” Google “mimosa” Google “mg caffeine per cup chart” Google “paint fumes pregnancy” Google “Nyquil tetragen” Google “tetragen teratogen” Google “Tay Sachs Irish American” Google “termination 22 weeks NY legal” Google “epidural breastfeeding” Google “premature amniotic rupture risk of infection” Google “Cochran review staying home” Google “cytocec risks” Google “cervical check” Google “nipple stimulation” Google “evening promise oil” Google “optimal delivery position face presentation vaginal birth”


The difference that your fucking search history makes. The difference that showing up with printouts makes. In the middle of the night.


The message board that says it wasn’t your fault the message board that says there was nothing you could have done that says when you’re ready you can try again that says you can recover at home you can labor at home you can call the nurseline you can go to L&D but they’ll just send you home


The difference it makes to be able to go home


Caolan Madden holds an MFA from Johns Hopkins and is currently a Ph.D. candidate in English literature at Rutgers. Recent poems and essays have appeared or are forthcoming in Black Warrior Review, Split Lip, the Electric Gurlesque anthology, and WEIRD SISTER. She is a co-author of the chapbook GIRL TALK TRIPTYCH (dancing girl press) and the author of VAST NECROHOL, a chapbook in the form of a video game (forthcoming in 2017 from Hyacinth Girl Press).

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