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Afterward, the girls to whom it’s happened rehash the worst of it.

When you come back from the infirmary, for a few days

other girls will do your chores. Even the harshest few grow briefly gentle.

No one knows what happens.

It is not an appendectomy. It does not cure the pain or shaking.

Others say there is some soreness between the legs,

and then a sense, which will not leave you, that something’s been undone.

I wish I could feel it in my body. Even that small burning after whatever it is

they broke would be a comfort. They do not know that I can understand

and so, nobody says a word. The only way that I can chart some change

is in the way the doctors look at me after it’s happened.

Less fearful. Less appalled.

Relief: I wake.

Relief: upon waking, I can still lift my right arm from the bed.

Relief: what it would mean to feel a sharpness;
Yes, I know it happened.
Yes, I understand that I am changed.
Yes, I am still alive. I am still a body in the world.

from The Virginia State Colony for Epileptics and FeeblemindedFind it in the library

Copyright © Persea Books 2017
Used with the permission of The Permissions Company, Inc.
on behalf of Persea Books.

Published in Molly McCully Brown Poems

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