1967, Girl and Snow

On nights like this, she sleeps with the car’s jack handle
            in her hand, the smell of oil and metal oddly comforting
in such a public place. She keeps her clothes

in a cardboard box on the ’54 Chevy’s back seat,
            along with a green wool blanket, two towels, a bag
of books. And tonight she piles blouses, blue jeans,

sweater, skirt—all of it—on top of her body, hunkering
            down low on the front seat. She’s parked beneath
the brightest overhanging street light she could find

at the edge of this shopping mall parking lot, slammed
            the door locks down tight. Tomorrow, she’ll drive
across town, tell a pack of lies to a do-gooder doctor.

She’ll lie about her name, her address, her age—
            she’ll invent a husband. After the impossible
calendar questions, the awkward, back-opening

gown, the cold feet in iron stirrups, the knees
            spreading, the gloved hand pressing, the fingers
probing—the earnest-faced doctor will tell her

(while pulling gloves off, while tossing them
            into a gray metal bin), will tell her: yes. A baby
is arriving in late August—as if

she should expect a visitor, maybe stepping off
            the Greyhound bus, suitcase in hand—
and she remembers how her grandmother would call

her period the unwelcome visitor, how she’d say
            the only thing worse than the monthly visitor
is no visitor at all. The doctor will say everything

looks fine. He’ll say No charge for today. He’ll smile a little,
            shake her hand. The best he can do.
Then he’ll leave her alone in that white, white room

and she’ll button up her wrinkled work uniform, slip out
            onto the street, and make her way back
to the shopping mall to work the snack bar’s sorry

evening shift, serving coffee, burgers and fries to bored
            store clerks and tired housewives. Soon, like everyone else,
her high school principal will notice the swelling arc

of her belly, and he’ll call her into his windowless office,
            sit her down on a metal chair, and recite
district policy excluding pregnant students

from attending school. He will insist
            it’s for her own good. The girl will say he’s wrong.
She’ll say she’s not pregnant at all. He’ll call in

the kind, freckled woman who teaches history, and the girl
            will deny it again. She’ll deny it
over and over—to all of them—determined to hold them off

until graduation in June. Spring will be long, and filled with rain.
            But tonight, large flakes of snow hover in the light
and she thinks of her mother, scrambling toward the promise

of a job—her mother and the five younger kids, sleeping
            600 miles away on the floor of a rented house in a warm
desert town this girl has never seen, and she starts the car, lets it run

a few minutes with heater on and the urgency
            of Grace Slick’s “Somebody to Love” on the radio,
and she pulls the blanket close around her shoulders, imagines

the dense, pressed asphalt under the car, and the ancient
            earth beneath the asphalt, and she watches
the snow grow heavy, pile up, darkening.

Related Poems

Pain Scale

Floating above the gynecologist's hands,
Dolor looks down at me
with her many expressions.

Someone sketched the eyes, the mouths,
someone pinned them up,
arranged the faces

so they softly say, like this? like this?
The doctor says to choose one,
but I'm no fool, I close my eyes

and the speculum is blind and cool,
widened and distracting.
Like the Chikyū vessel drilling

downhole from the ocean floor
into the untouched mantle,
it shows we're scarred inside

by what years and use and trespass do.
Every day the women open their eyes
and follow me into the streets,

the cities, like a wind murmur begins
a rumor of waves, the faces of earth
saying let this pain be error upon me writ.

wishes for sons

i wish them cramps.
i wish them a strange town
and the last tampon.
I wish them no 7-11.

i wish them one week early
and wearing a white skirt.
i wish them one week late.

later i wish them hot flashes
and clots like you
wouldn't believe. let the
flashes come when they
meet someone special.
let the clots come
when they want to.

let them think they have accepted
arrogance in the universe,
then bring them to gynecologists
not unlike themselves.

Her Kind

I have gone out, a possessed witch,
haunting the black air, braver at night;
dreaming evil, I have done my hitch
over the plain houses, light by light:
lonely thing, twelve-fingered, out of mind.
A woman like that is not a woman, quite.
I have been her kind.

I have found the warm caves in the woods,
filled them with skillets, carvings, shelves,
closets, silks, innumerable goods;
fixed the suppers for the worms and the elves:
whining, rearranging the disaligned.
A woman like that is misunderstood.
I have been her kind.

I have ridden in your cart, driver,
waved my nude arms at villages going by,
learning the last bright routes, survivor
where your flames still bite my thigh
and my ribs crack where your wheels wind.
A woman like that is not ashamed to die.
I have been her kind.