Tuesday, March 23, 2010

When Will It Stop Bleeding?

I don’t usually write much poetry. But very occasionally, I feel inspired to write some. This is what I wrote today. And I am going to be extremely brave and share it with you.

When will it stop bleeding?

A pain-filled room
littered with tears
and guilt-filled tissues
huddled in groups below each chair.
Misery loves company.

The women speak
with choking sobs
and folded arms
and hands that clench and fidget
and cover their faces,
to hide their shame.

Their words are not words
but poison-tipped daggers
piercing all who listen
to the womb.

Their right, they said.
A simple procedure.
No need to ruin your life.

Tell that to the women
who cry,
not silently, softly,
like a lady in mourning,
but loudly, angrily,
violently, uncontrollably.
The cries of a woman
who not only lost her child,
but could have saved it.

A tissue seems so inadequate.
Somebody pass her an exorcist.

When the stories are told
and the tears are shed
and the shame uncovered,
they will go home,

But their wounds will remain.
Not scars
for they never really heal,
but bleed afresh
with each new knock to their motherhood.

This is no fresh, bright red blood
But dark, clotted, almost brown blood.
(Is that a blood clot or my baby?)

These are the cries of woman with a choice,
unable to change their decision
once they made it.
(You live with it forever, you know.)

These are the cries of women with dead children,
of graves with no gravestones,
of grief with no sympathy,
of guilt with no understanding.

These are the cries of empowered women,
feeling helpless.

(Nurse, something is wrong.
I had a procedure.
I can’t stop bleeding.
There are so many blood clots.
And I think I saw my baby.)

(Nothing is wrong.
The baby is gone.
The bleeding is normal.
The blood clots are normal.
It will stop in about three weeks.)

(But Nurse, when will it stop bleeding.
When will it really stop bleeding?)


  1. Hi Liz
    I'm sure that many women regret having abortions.
    I had one, years ago, because I had broken up with my boyfriend. I was wavering but I didn't have his support and just closed my mind to having a child. I decided to have one and wouldn't listen to the doctor who was pleading with me to reconsider.

    It was a long long time before I connected the downward spiral of my life with that decision. And even though I had been brought up Catholic, abortion was presented so matter-of-factly as an easy solution that I just went with it.

    You can't blame yourself for doing something that you did when you were not fully conscious of the moral implications. Or were under pressure that made you act against your beliefs.
    Even if you were unsure at the time.

    You have two lovely children now. I'm sure you have made amends for it.

    I have heard different ideas about when the soul actually enters the body, though I know that Catholics say that is at the time of conception. I believe it is always wrong to take a life but true repentance absolves you from any sin.

    That child's soul will have been given another body to inhabit. And constant sorrow won't reverse what has been done.

    Maybe you need to do something like go to confession or just get all your grief out in some other way. Crying is good. Crying til it is washed away.

  2. Hi Teresa,

    I didn't actually say that I had an abortion and deliberately kept it that way. But I guess it was obvious that the poem was based on personal experience. So I don't suppose it matters if I now admit it.

    I have confessed it to a priest. And this poem was based on a healing retreat for women who had abortions, which involved a great deal of crying and at least some healing.

    Strangely enough, it was my abortion that eventually led to me becoming a committed Christian. I felt so dreadful about it all, particularly after the birth of my first child, that I was looking for something to help me. That 'something' ended up being the Pentecostal church.

    And I was going to say something else here, but I think that's about as personal as I'm prepared to get for the moment on a public blog.

    Thanks for the comment.


  3. Dear Liz,

    This is such a serious subject, and Teresa has echoed a lot of my sentiments, so I won't write a lot.

    I will write this. This is a great poem.

    And I nearly fell off my chair when I read the lines:

    A tissue seems so inadequate.
    Somebody pass her an exorcist.

    It reminded me so much of David Lynch's The Elephant Man. It was such a sad film, and yet I burst out laughing in the cinema when he combed his hair.

    My mate Duncan, who runs the International Film School in Sydney, said, You're meant to laugh. He knows film.

    I've written some good poetry in my time. I haven't written anything better than this.

    As I said in a private email to you, What is the difference between a woman having an abortion and a man using contraception?

    What I loved most about what Teresa said was that you had made amends for it by having two lovely boys.

    If you look at any sin, all God requires is we stop doing it and amend our lives. And abortion is not the only sin being committed in this world.

    I have committed sins that are just as bad. If not worse. Because I had full knowledge of the nature of sin when I committed them.

    For many years, I aborted the life God gave me.

    One last thing. You are both very brave women to admit these things in public.

    David ...

  4. Dear David,

    There were two reasons I needed to be brave in posting this poem. One is it is such a personal subject. And two, it was a poem.

    I think a fair degree of bravery is needed just to write poetry, let alone share it. Maybe that's why I don't write much.

    I posted a poem on Orble once. It was one of the very few posts of mine at that time that didn't receive a comment.

    When I write a poem, I'm never sure if it's good or completely awful. So I was delighted to see you call it a great poem.

    I think this is by far the best poem I have ever written. And it has almost inspired me to write some more. But then, I think what made this poem good was the emotion behind it. I could really explore some of the pain and guilt after having an abortion, while still keeping a bit of distance. So it was probably just a one-off thing.

    I didn't even plan on writing it. I kept thinking about that phrase 'pain-filled room' which I wrote in an email to you. And as I kept thinking about it, the poem sort of evolved.


  5. This was an exceptional effort. Well done. Larry

  6. Thank you Larry.

    And thank you for making the effort to comment. I'm glad you finally managed to leave it. I wonder what the problem was.


  7. Dear Liz,

    I'm going to get the details of the Newcastle Poetry Prize for you.

    It is the richest poetry prize in Australia.

    From memory, the winner receives $15,000.

    My writing teacher, Graeme, was runner up one year. (He got nothing).

    Roland Leach won it that year with a poem titled 'Drowning Orphelia (The Madness Poems)'

    Graeme's entry was just as good.

    One thing you must not do with this poem is change one iota or jot and tittle of it, though. Because it was written with raw emotion, and you'll only fuck it up if you try and improve it.

    (Sorry about the English).

    You may not win the Newcastle Poetry Prize with this poem. But you might.

    One thing is certain. It will be published in their anthology. Because it will rock the socks off most poets who read it.

    Women are so intuitive. They pick up on things. I'm referring to your style of poetry.

    It's an astounding poem. It really is.

    I keep hearing a voice in my head in regards to this poem. I'm sure it's Christ's voice. Or Jesus' voice, if you prefer. (I have just always called Him Christ Jesus, my Lord and my God. I was never all that comfortable getting on a first-name basis with Him because He is going to Judge me, and I cringe when I think of that. But, at times I think of His gentility and meekness, and I can hear Him saying in regards to this post (and poem), "The truth will set you free, Elizabeth."

    He was the perfect man. He would have had the most wonderful voice. We should think about that every now and again.

    I can picture Him in the crowd at a Bon Jovi concert, going, I've got a better voice than this guy. How come no-one wants to listen to me?

    Because, as St John said, "The bow cannot always be taut."

    You have a wonderful sense of humour. That line about passing her an exorcist, rather than a tissue? Not many things in this life make me lose it, but that did.

    I know this is supposed to be a serious Christian blog, but let me just say this. I'm surprised I haven't made a tissue give birth, when I consider what I use them for.

    David, what are you going to call baby Kleenex when he grows up?

    We're human Elizabeth. We're sinners.

    But if we hang around good-willed people, like the people who comment on this blog (Larry Raven included), we will be joyful about life and forget our past transgressions. Because if people can overlook our sins, how much more will God do the same?

    Keep the Faith.

    Your eternal friend ...

    David ...

  8. Dear David,

    Now that would be a dilemma. If I was at a Bon Jovi concert, and Jesus was there, who would I listen to? It would be a tough decision. Maybe Jon Bon Jovi and Jesus could do a duet, singing Keep the Faith. I'll have to increase my prayers for Jon Bon Jovi, in the hopes I might get to hear it in Heaven one day. Bon Jovi have sung in one of their songs 'If they party up in Heaven, I'll be sure to be on time.' Although, I suppose once you're in Heaven, you pretty much have kept the faith.

    I may not know much about poetry, but I'm pretty sure there's no chance this could win any poetry competition. And I'd be very shocked if it even made it into an anthology. But thank you for thinking it could. I never really planned on doing anything with it, other than posting it on this blog and hoping people didn't hate it. But maybe I will try and enter it in something and see how it goes.

    I never tried to be funny with that exorcist line - as in I didn't sit down and go I must think of a funny line. But I had the tissue line there for a while and was trying to think of something to come after it. And that's what I eventually wrote.

    I went to a writing workshop once. And we had to write something on the day. So I just tried to write something that was good, basically, or at least not terrible. Because I knew I had to read it out to the group. And when I eventually read my piece out, everybody laughed all the way through it. I don't think I even realised it was funny until then. Afterwards, a few people came up to me saying, 'How did you write such a funny story?' I replied with something like, 'I don't know. I just wrote.'




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