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Expelling Venus

by Elizabeth Oxley

When the doctor says he'll need to remove

my ovaries, I consider performing a farewell ritual—

hippy shindig with altar, candle, and two stones 

plucked from the river. Instead, I sign in for surgery 

and awake to a stomach pocked with cuts,

skillful breaking and entering, ovaries gone

as if snatched by thieves in the night. Nurses roll me

into a recovery room. In morphine half-dreams

I recall the nude pantyhose my grandmother used

for Christmas stockings. They lined her hearth,

an eerie cabaret of thrombotic legs into which 

my brothers and I thrust our hands each year, 

tearing out what didn't belong: gift boxes, 

shiny lengths of ribbon, twenty-dollar bill pinned

to each toe like a callus. That night, I sleep

fitfully on spartan sheets, and in the morning, 

a young orderly helps me from my cot to a wheelchair, 

smiling—beautiful little boy—all the way to the lobby. 

I can have no more children. I clutch my stomach 

and grieve, remembering the doctor's sketches—

how my tubes resembled horns, my uterus a skull 

my brother once kicked over in a field. It was flocked

with lichen, lower jaw missing, as if the earth 

had begun dismantling it bottom up, leaving the antelope

mouthing the ground like a bit, so accustomed 

she'd once been to carrying life inside her.

From After April Rain, available

for purchase from Longship Press

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