~This poem previously appeared in New CollAge Magazine (2001).
Chelsea Hotel, Room 101
is where they bring the gurney.
Between sodden lingerie, the knife’s rough part
grins like teeth in a tissueless tract where babies can’t grow.
Closed tight or half-open still, you think of your fingers
and count the times I didn’t call.
It’s like a hunger, this ache in my belly.
There’s a wet suck as it leaves my belly,
divesting me of Cupid’s arrow before raising the gurney.
If I had air left in my lungs, I’d call
for you, but I don’t. That’s the hard part.
I can feel your fingers,
even as the chills grow.
It is New York, cat-calls and traffic and sirens grow
loud too early in the day, and my belly
was full and tight now two hours ago, your fingers
did not trail behind the gurney
looking for one last touch through a cloth part.
You start to wonder if I did call.
Perhaps you slept through my call,
deaf to my voice in your opiate dreams; this can grow
tedious, the way television and smack is the part
of our day that never stops. You touch my belly
in your dream, and I turn into grey flesh on the gurney,
then straight back to ash, slipping through your bruised fingers.
Under the sink, my fingers
spread open wide from wanting. I grew sticky, my call
was too quiet for you to hear. I can see the gurney
for a split second, before the lights in the room grow
blurred. I have an echo in my belly,
spilling onto the tiles, my secret inside part.
In that desperate, strung-out part
of sliding away from you, at last I could feel. My fingers
found steel, mumbling inside my belly.
I am bleeding beneath the leaking sink. I don’t want to call
out to you, because you won’t let me grow
cold on the tiles, waiting for the gurney.
This is the part where I call goodbye to you.
I grow backwards, born again bloodless, a screaming baby again with closed fingers.
I can’t see you anymore from the gurney; I am curled up inside my own dead belly.
THE STORY BEHIND THE POEM
This piece was written as an exercise in form, during the advanced poetry workshop seminar my last year as an undergraduate at New College. While I was struggling to competently draft a sestina, arguably one of the most difficult forms of structured poetry, I was distracting myself by chainsmoking and watching the movie Sid & Nancy on a loop. This piece is what came from the collision of formal poetry and a desperate, punk rock love story.
ABOUT ALLIE MARINI BATTS
Allie Marini Batts is an MFA candidate at Antioch University of Los Angeles, meaning she can explain deconstructionism, but cannot perform simple math. Her work has been nominated for Best of the Net and the Pushcart Prize. She contributes to the publication of AULA's Lunch Ticket literary magazine, Spry Literary Journal, The Weekenders Magazine, and The Bookshelf Bombshells. Her first chapbook, You Might Curse Before You Bless was published in 2013 by ELJ Publications, and her second chapbook, Unmade & Other Poems, is forthcoming from Beautysleep Press. Find her on the web: https://www.facebook.com/AllieMariniBatts/