Poetry & Art

Special Issue: Abortion

Some days, the world we inhabit is too difficult for words. In this special issue, the words and images speak for us. Sandra Nilsson’s triptych defines trapped and dirty and fear. This is a vision of where we are headed. The poems and images in this issue attempt to explain to a world that refuses to listen. They cry out: pain, relief, regret, wonder, questioning, and anger. Again and again, we women must explain as Deborah Bacharach explains, “Now, I am at the sink / but really, I am walking / the large certain stones to the clinic. / One bright snapdragon shakes.”


Special Issue: Abortion


Some days, the world we inhabit is too difficult for words. In this special issue, the words and images speak for us. Sandra Nilsson’s triptych defines trapped and dirty and fear. This is a vision of where we are headed. The poems and images in this issue attempt to explain to a world that refuses to listen. They cry out: pain, relief, regret, wonder, questioning, and anger. Again and again, we women must explain as Deborah Bacharach explains, “Now, I am at the sink / but really, I am walking / the large certain stones to the clinic. / One bright snapdragon shakes.” This issue ends with the ashes of “Fury” by Danielle Hark. I intentionally want to leave you in these ashes as a call to arms for women and as a warning to those who have forced us here.

Allison Blevins

May 2019


Harbor Review

“Untitled” by Sandra Nilsson

“Untitled” by Sandra Nilsson

“Untitled” by Sandra Nilsson

“Untitled” by Sandra Nilsson


On Fear

I. tokozoophobia: fear of giving birth to animals

A woman dies of sepsis in America. Pushed it out,

the fetal monster made of hair and bone, 

because the animal, which looked about

like rabbit on the ultrasound, had grown

without the limbs attached to torso. Now,

the animal could not be birthed alive,

but woman tried, she tried and tried, and now,

the animal was wanting out. It cried

and cried. Though missing lips, it still could bite,

and bite it did. Through cervix, uterus,

through womb, through skin, the animal was sick

with longing, so they say, to live. Enough,

she must have asked. Deliver me this kid,

its fur, its pelt, too late for me, she spits.

II. zoothanatophobia: fear of animals dying

When I’m alone I spread my fingers wild

like hairs medusa’d into snakes. They swoon

like hangnails off of cuticles and wide

their mouths to howl the ripening of June’s 

strawberry moon. When I’m alone I dust

my fingernails with aching, rouge my cheeks

with mud. I kick. Jackrabbit being thrust

from mother: You are just about to squeal 

your body into blades. The mower strikes

you. Grinds you up. And tularemia

is coming. Now, when I’m alone I cry

because of little deaths like these, the raw,

unfiltered ones that take a while to come.

Come hairs like fingers, needle your way home.

III. pharmacophobia: the dog is probably dead

in which I hope that she is just afraid,

the woman tells me aren’t we all just filled

with hookworms? But I have to tell her no,

she rolls her eyes, her puppy likely dies 

of this anemia. I tell her then

at least do not walk barefoot in her yard.

She chooses peppermint instead and not

the panacur, and I am trying hard

to not give up about the medicine—

She does not remember but she knows

that there’s an oil or herb for worms inside

the book she keeps at bedside, pamphlets sulk

beneath her fingers, seconds pass like grief;

she says, I’ll throw them away when you leave.

Clara Bush Vadala

Who Lives

after John Irving


Coat hanger, incinerator, knitting needle,

forceps, twig, detergent, gasoline,

syringe, beatings, punches, steak knife, law,

member, -facient, powder, berry, black soot, lye, 

fishing knife, broken glass, meat hook,

wire, spade, bullet, sunken grave, jagged stone, 


Laura Lee Washburn

September, That Year

The calm of fixing,

with each layer of glue, 

petal to page. One day to fix the final dead petal,

hold every bud 


beneath the mucilage.

It happened like machinery: Planned

Parenthood fed me a pill 

like a quarter 

and a gumball bled 

from between my legs.

I hang 

by their stems 

your flowers until junked

bunches of ragweed and parched petals 


to the floor.

A receptionist handed me the number to schedule 

a follow-up and possible 

cleaning out—this 

to occur in no more than twenty days’ but 

no less than two weeks’ time.

Strapped in a cardboard box, 

eighteen days after

the abortion I made you fly to face, 

a shock

of sunflowers, tiger lilies, ragweed 

crowded the stoop.

My maintenance at the clinic handled,

I called to thank you for the follow-up 


It’s for our anniversary, you said.

But how’d that go, anyway? 

Sarah Boyle

*This poem first appeared in Cheat River Review, and it appears in Sarah Boyle’s chapbook What's pink & shiny/what's dark & hard. 

“Contemplation” by Danielle Hark

“Contemplation” by Danielle Hark

“Ain’t Got Nobody” by Danielle Hark

“Ain’t Got Nobody” by Danielle Hark

“Bound” by Danielle Hark

“Bound” by Danielle Hark

Praying with my Feet

They cut access to abortion

my daughter tells me

as she reaches for water.

Abortion. I don't think 

I've ever said that word to her.

Sex. My daughter 

has never dated, 

kissed a boy. She barely 

admits to a crush, but I'm 

the leg-spinning Bugs Bunny 

at the edge of the cliff.

If you are drunk, 

I say, I have my back to her

put a dish in the sink, 

any reason, I reach

for the glasses, if you could be

core an apple,

come to me. For three days 

Plan B gives you 

the rest of your life

What's that? she says.

Some days I wait 

for divine revelation. I pace 

next to the powered down

electric piano; song could

pour out. I walk by 

shades that open 

from the top and bottom.  

They don’t open.  

Dust stays under the rug.  

Dishes haven’t even 

made it to the sink. 

Now, I am at the sink

but really, I am walking

the large certain stones to the clinic.

One bright snapdragon shakes.

Deborah Bacharach


First, think helpful. Think: necessary. Think

you're guiding the present, the presently

blurry wearing a halo of mirrors, the tinted kind.

Think tunnels. Think music: the piping

you hear through wooden vertebrates

of praying instruments. Think kaleidoscopes.

Think mosaics. Think: starlight amber and celestial

mint. Think ice-cream. Think sweetness.

Think sweat and nests. Think bolder.

Think boulder. Think dunes. Think beaches.

Think: swashbuckled sand. Think sea glass.

Think stepping-stones and pickled jade.

Think paths worn smooth only by echoes. Think

hollow as spacious. Think cartwheel. Think stretching.

Think glide. Think spin. Think: dizzy as delicious

as coffee and mornings and sun. Think weather

(think whether). Think light. Think less.

Think lest. No, less. Think sense. No, scents.

Think: lush like May, like lilacs. Think bees, safe

and whirring through fingertip petals—think pink.

Think puce. Think: faint shades of flesh,

of breath. Think sighing. Think blossoms.

Think: capable of blooming, think womb, no, bloom.

Think this, think the abstract: think quality.

Think potential. Think now then after. Think after

this room, this posture. This table, this vinyl

upholstery, this blinding lamp. Think: now. Here—

here, where your right hand pinches your left,

where it grasps whole and firm to your skin, your skin

your breath. This solace. Think this. This: You, to be continued.

Michelle Menting

Holly, 1962

after Bridget Potter

I thought horizon was made up in stories—even 

in the country, New York, 

hills and trees zip past the eye up close to the train 

I ride home or back 

to the city where something terrible would befall me, 

I was warned, and perhaps 

it has: three weeks ago I sat cooking in a terribly hot bath, 

Kevin pouring gin 

into my mouth to induce abortion. No luck. Now, five hundred 

dollars in my bra, 

on a plane to California, I see the earth receding to its side. So that’s 

horizon. On the ground 

it is a sideways spine, crossed by the uneven vertebraeic trees, 

the same long line 

I trace down the hall, where the tubular bulbs have yellowed 

out like bones, 

to the room where I lie on my back, and listen for the scraping 

I am author to. Weeks

of crying at my desk, a douche with soap, running up  

and down the stairs,

hot bath and gin, a visit to a witch with a folding table 

I ran from scared—then 

a name in my ear from a friend back home, the frantic push

for money, the flight 

and now the pain that tastes like metal, that crests, to stay 

Holly, me, this Holly. 

I feel a pulling all through. Then I am packed with rags and bleeding 

in the cab. The sun 

and pain conspire, the hotel dark and yellow. I am dumb 

with it, all night listening 

to it, and for whether it will kill me. At the airport,  

the trees become 

long necks, their hair fronds dangle far above the ground. 

In New York, the world

comes close again. The same music pouring out of the same bars,

the food familiar 

as my own body. Someday, at a party, a stranger will describe 

your trees, and I affect 

indifference as he makes the introduction—

California, me, California:

no one else in this city will know how we met.

Megan Alpert

*This poem is included in the forthcoming book The Animal at Your Side (winner of the Airlie Prize) by Megan Alpert.

Blue Mitosis

"God bless the child that's got his own." —Billie Holliday

Vasectomy, you said, when I told you

two moons had left the sky

their legacy of tacit shadows

since I'd missed the beat of bloodfall.

We sat in the front room's blue-

backed director's chairs, our reflections

clean as a crime scene's outlines

on the polished wooden floor.

How so, I asked.  No other sail's

hoisted in this bottlestorm.

You leaned back, in your eyes

a blackbird's sidelong glimmer.  Appraisal 

or subterfuge, I couldn't tell.

That angle of the shoulderblades

all wishful thinking, my speculation's

kern and ligature.  Was it that April

morning in the Baton Rouge hotel,

careless with sweat and the redbird's

love notes in the oleander?

Our hands moving so smooth

over the thighs' chromatic scales

we caught all the body's nine

gates of desire unguarded.

What do you want? you asked 

that night, after I'd called the clinic

on St. Charles, the test result

a plus sign—antibodies clustered 

like familiar lies on a laboratory slide.

You took me on your lap, nuzzled

my breasts already swelling.

My daughter in Phoenix, you said.

Thirteen, almost a woman.  Almost

old enough to cost you everything.

What about the unbudgeted

expenses of the heart?  Economies

of scale, our lives so hidden then,

terminal forgivenesses of flesh

we asked ourselves to be responsible.

That dawnlight of fog and riverdamp

you tensed in the clinic's waiting room

as if the verdict were a life,

while I sat with the other women

to break the body's thrall.

Medicine's mandated circle:  mandala

of circumstance, my blood pretending 

we hadn't yet made up our minds.  

As if the verdict were the other story 

we went on telling ourselves,

that inner dialogue of bile

and bloodknots, an album of secret

descendants who never had a chance.

Afterwards, we cradled cups of hot chocolate

in Burger King, plastic chair-molds

tipping us forward, ache between my thighs

a tincture of cells spreading over the rest

of our lives.  Sorrow's plea 

in your dark eyes, my luck 

uncoupling from yours.  Outside, 

streetcar tracks past the clinic 

still empty of rescuers.  I wanted to ask,

Isn't marriage a mitosis in reverse?

Fused nuclei of egg and sperm, only then

can the heart begin dividing.  God bless

the child that almost was our own.

Carolyne Lee Wright

*This poem first appeared in the North American Review as a finalist for the James Hearst Prize in Poetry.

“Untitled” by Ona Diouf

“Untitled” by Ona Diouf

The Rambler Ambassador of Yore

Glistening eyes at 4 a.m.

parked car standoff

diesel trucks lumbering past 

purposeful and loaded.

Push-button transmission lights glow on the dash, 

and she stares at those tiny lights. They are

the sunrise, the savior, daybreak, the flood

receding as trucks sigh fumes and lullabies.

The lights. She will push the buttons 

and they will yield under a finger, the clutch

will slip, the gear engage, she will slip under, 

hygienic paper sheath crinkling

under the weight of buttocks resting

there. Let your knees fall open.

Later it’s the glistening eye, the standoff;

the parked car, the accusation, her triumphant escape— 

driving off, purposeful and loaded, carrying

a new secret for the future:

a hard kernel of something, a smooth oval pebble,

a single burning cell, a light in mineral eyes.

A memory,

this implanted thing,

vibrating beneath its protective cover.

Stella Beratlis

*This poem first appeared in Stella Beratlis’ collection Alkali Sink.


I pray to catch on fire, 

to get caught up 

in a mercifully

lightening storm,

burn my body back

to earth. The woods 

are overcrowded. Stillness 

lost, boardrooms and clearings.

We competed for the sun,

reaching out for the last 

solar flare, arcing slowly 

over you lying still on the couch.

Mortgage research and persistent fungi.

Abortions whispered 

into rotting logs and deer hooves. 

I nearly slipped hard 

in the rain water,

the thick coating of mustard.

Just missed 

disturbing a mosquito 

nest brimming 

with potential babies.

What kind of father would you have been?

Conyer Clayton

*This poem first appeared in Arc Magazine issue 85 and won the 2017 Diana Brebner Poetry Prize.

Abortion Sonnet

After “Police Photo, Norwich Connecticut, 1964”

I want us all to imagine her dead body rising, jerking 

and mechanical, the lurch and halt and sputter of a carnival ride, 

how The Whip and Wipeout and Scrambler

move, attempt to start over—put themselves back together 

only to be taken, pulled to pieces once again.  I want us to feel 

her suffering.  Not how it felt in her 

body.  That is unimaginable.  That should remain unspoken.  Let us live 

in the suffering of the body clambering back

to feet, body heaving up—empty now.  Let the body be ready to fight.  

I want that body, like Judith—searching for heads 

of men who’d bring all of us 

naked to our knees, who’d photograph us 

prone and paling from the slow drain.  Let us imagine 

all the bodies wandering forward—swords in hand.

Allison Blevins

*This poem first appeared in The New Verse News.

“Fury” by Danielle Hark

“Fury” by Danielle Hark

“Untitled” by Sandra Nilsson

“Untitled” by Sandra Nilsson



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Megan Alpert

Megan Alpert is the author of The Animal at Your Side, which is forthcoming from Airlie Press in fall 2019. Her poems have appeared in Harvard Review, Sixth Finch, Crab Orchard Review, Storyscape, and many others. She has reported for Foreign Policy, The Atlantic, and The Guardian and has received a fellowship from the International Women's Media Foundation.


Deborah Bacharach

Deborah Bacharach is the author of After I Stop Lying (Cherry Grove Collections, 2015). Her work has appeared in The Antigonish Review, Mojo, Pembroke Magazine, Inscape, Cimarron Review, and Sweet Tree Review among many others. She is an editor, teacher and tutor in Seattle. Find out more about her at DeborahBacharach.com.

Stella Beratlis

Stella Beratlis, poet laureate of Modesto, CA, is the author of the collection Alkali Sink (2015, Sixteen Rivers Press), a nominee for the Northern California Book Award. Her work has been published in California Quarterly, In Posse Review, hardpan, Song of the San Joaquin, Penumbra, and Quercus Review as well as the anthology The Place That Inhabits Us: Poems of the San Francisco Bay Watershed (Sixteen Rivers Press, 2010). An academic librarian, she is a mom, a sister, and a daughter.

Sarah B. Boyle

Sarah B. Boyle is a poet, mother, and teacher. She has written a lot of poems and essays about her body, rape culture, and abortion. Her chapbook What's pink & shiny/what's dark & hard was published by Porkbelly Press, and she is the founding editor of the Pittsburgh Poetry Houses, a public art project. Find her online at impolitelines.com.

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Conyer Clayton

Conyer Clayton is an Ottawa based artist who aims to live with compassion, gratitude, and awe. Her most recent chapbooks are: Trust Only the Beasts in the Water (above/ground press, 2019), Undergrowth (bird, buried press) and Mitosis (In/Words Magazine and Press). She released a collaborative album with Nathanael Larochette, If the river stood still, in August 2018. Her work appears in ARC, Prairie Fire, The Fiddlehead, The Maynard, Puddles of Sky Press, and others. She won Arc's 2017 Diana Brebner Prize, and writes reviews for Canthius. Her debut full length collection of poetry is forthcoming Spring 2020.

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Ona Diouf


Danielle Hark

Danielle Hark is a writer and artist who lives with PTSD and bipolar disorder. She is the founder of the non-profit Broken Light Collective that empowers people with mental health challenges using photography. Her work has been featured in journals, magazines, exhibits, and anthologies. Danielle lives and creates in New Jersey with her husband, two sassy young daughters, a Samoyed pup, a Scottish Fold cat, and a typewriter named Cori Blue. www.daniellehark.com @daniellehark

Michelle Menting

Michelle Menting is the author of Leaves Surface Like Skin (Terrapin Books) and two poetry chapbooks. She is poetry & nonfiction editor of Split Rock Review, and her writing appears in American Life in Poetry, Verse Daily, DIAGRAM, Cimarron Review, and in other places. She lives in Maine.

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Sandra Nilsson

Sandra Nilsson is an interior design blogger, photographer, artist, and mother working out of Anderstorp Sweden. Her work included themes of identity, vulnerability, and family. More of her work can be seen at http://vintage-house.blogspot.com/ or follow her on Instagram @vintagehouse.


Clara Bush Vadala

Clara Bush Vadala is a North Texas veterinarian and poet. Her poems appear or are forthcoming in Entropy, Thimble Literary Magazine, and 3Elements Review. Her book of poems Prairie Smoke: Poems from the Grasslands is available and her second collection, Beast Invites Me In, is forthcoming from Finishing Line Press.


Laura Lee Washburn

Laura Lee Washburn is author of This Good Warm Place (March Street) and Watching the Contortionists (Palanquin Chapbook Prize). Her poetry has previously appeared in Harbor Review. She is one of the founders and the Co-President of the Board of SEK Women Helping Women. https://www.facebook.com/sekwhw


Carolyne Lee Wright

Carolyne Wright’s newest book is This Dream the World: New & Selected Poems (Lost Horse Press, 2017), whose title poem won a Pushcart Prize and was included in The Best American Poetry 2009. Her ground-breaking anthology, Raising Lilly Ledbetter: Women Poets Occupy the Workspace (Lost Horse, 2015), received ten Pushcart Prize nominations.