First Unitarian Church of Rochester, 1988
Before the sermon begins, I puke
blood in a cramped hallway & leave without
cleaning up the mess.
Am I Eve? Biblical pariah,
my girl body disturbs me: pink
collection plate. Sweat gathers
in hairless armpits, oocytes stir yet
their travel will, for another twenty years, produce
only cyclical absence.
Nascent breasts under loose tops,
I learn my empty slough is something
to hide in bathroom stalls, feminine
pad expel, expelled to a backpack or purse.
I learn to exaggerate the pain when I want to
skip gym class. Like all the Raggedy Anns.
What does my teacher—without knowing—conceal
& predict when he quickly averts his eyes?
He gives me sweaty permission
to read alone in the nurse’s office: thin membrane
curtain, foldaway clot, tart red
juice in a Styrofoam cup.
Mother of all my living, my living all
my mother, I was a chiasmus from the start
& go two months in utero until she’s onto
me. Her ovum is my ovum is my twin
daughters, delicate split moon,
who do not yet know their bodies are ritual gardens,
who do not yet know its clockwork catch & release,
who do not yet know God
is gone too soon from this place.
What wisdom is there in shedding?
Caroline Beltz-Hosek received her M.A. in Poetry from SUNY Brockport. A former assistant editor at Penguin Putnam, she has taught creative writing and literature at SUNY Geneseo since 2006. Her poems have been published in The Fourth River and Minetta Review. Additionally, she was awarded a 2018 Incentive Grant from the Geneseo Foundation for “The Long Diminishing Parade,” a poetry collection based in part on her maternal ancestors, which explores topics of motherhood, mental illness, alienation and the immigrant experience, and the role that place—real and imagined, personal and historical—plays in shaping identity and creative expression.