by Jill McDonough

Hand and foot, from head to toe, the body we know
like the back of our hands, we say, patting our palms
since we don’t know back from front, don’t know our ass
from our elbow. I help Liz find her vagina to use
a tampon her first time, Brooke tells me what to expect
during a blow job, Jeff says to let the funneled
force of Coors hold open my throat, a stranger
gives me Valium when I reach for her hand
on a plane. Now Depo, condoms, the Pill
make way for FSH and BBT, how the sperm
that makes boys goes faster, dies sooner,
like boys, says Joanna, holding her little girl.
Laura’s fingers flick to show how the dye popped open
her fallopian tubes. Rita Mae says a forty-eight-year-old’s sperm
could cause autism, Esther says kids are nice but they
do ruin your life. Billy’s friend announces,
out of nowhere, I am so happy with my decision
not to have children and none of us believe her.
X shopped around for the perfect Jewish eggs, Y
injected her belly, evenings, with little syringes, the bruises
blooming black, now purple, now yellow and green.
During implantation the nurses played soft eighties hits—
I bought a ticket to the world, I know I know I know
this much is true. She says in the ultrasound her ovaries
looked like bunches of grapes. Z has a baby at forty-two—
in vino she and her husband joke, in vitro
a no-no in the Roman Catholic Church. Encyclicals entitled
Donum Vitae, Dignitas Personae say why: the human person
is objectively deprived of its proper perfection: namely, that
of being the result and fruit of a conjugal act. The church,
thank god, is soothing, confident, ready to clear all this up. Life
a gift, human persons dignified. And we, most of us,
are perfect, because fathers put their penises in moms.

Published on July 23, 2011