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A student asks, “Are we allowed to write about abortion in this class?”

Because we are made of light, 

because we are grabbed

and taken in the water

of our blood, because it was a grove

of pines that told me you must,

because we bleed with and without,

because my boyfriend back in college,

bad as he was, offered to lend the money

to a friend, because I still don’t know

if that was a lie or the truth, because

I found myself, that fall, in a house of worship,

because, from the boats,

we heard the otters barking for their kin,

because my great-grandmother

could not be a professor or a poet,

but she could give herself an abortion,

because when you cut

a yard tree down, you’re left

with the work of hauling it out,

because we walked outdoors

to be with each other to heal ourselves,

because the cicada’s drone runs

through our bodies and we are strong,

so quick and smart, the air lifts into our ears,

because another student said writing is like meditation,

because there is so little I can do

to keep my students safe, and that is why

I must teach them to be writers,

because it’s not a matter of finding

your voice, but sharpening your life

like a knife, because any night is a night

for a poem about abortion

or a cracked limb or pressing

your fingers muddy,

because we are deer disappearing into the woods


Freesia McKee (she/her) writes about place, gender, and genre through poetry, prose, book reviews, and literary criticism. Recent work appears in Fugue, About Place Journal, Porter House Review, and her newest chapbook, Hummingbird Vows. She is an Assistant Professor of English at University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point. Read more at FreesiaMcKee.com