None of the doctors will let me keep the parts they carve away from me. I would like to keep it in a jar on my mantle, I tell them every time there’s something new that has to go. Some doctors laugh but I’m not joking. Some pretend to laugh through a burr in their throats. Some frown at me openly, as though I’m perverse for wanting to keep those things which are wholly my own.
First they came for my tonsils, then a few years later my appendix. No bottle with child-safe lid could contain them, no biohazard label. My canines had to go to make room for my incisors, and then my wisdom teeth so a crown of bone wouldn’t crowd my mouth. I wasn’t permitted even to rattle their memory awake in a baggie. The dangling white nerves from my root canals were plucked away and discarded, my spleen ruptured during surgery so there was nothing to salvage anyway, and my uterus and cervix were chucked whole and meaty into the trash. Here and there the doctors would neatly excise plantar warts and pilar cysts, inspect my painstakingly sifted kidney stones, and then cast them all away like so much inconvenient dust.
When the time came for my heart, my new doctor finally relented.
“But first,” she said, “it has to go through the incinerator.”
Names for the Daughter You’re Aborting
You can’t keep the baby but God as your witness you’re gonna name her anyway. (Avarice, Covetous, Melancholia.) You tick down your list. (Cataclysm, Lachrymose, Deluge.) You wish you could tear out whole entries from the dictionary and from the knitted gears of the English language itself: who cares what a word means when it sounds so lovely? (Catastrophe, Apostrophe, Synecdoche.)
Some words are so delicious in your mouth you wish you could just slurp them up like salty soup dumplings. (Cacophony, Calamity, Apocalypse.) Some words, you know they’re meant to be solemn, but their edges are doing the samba on your tongue so you can’t help it: you say them anyway, sing them anyway, shout them anyway. (Putrefy, Defenestrate, Degenerate.) This, you think, is how names should be. (Somnolence, Lethargy, Apathy.) Not like Cheryl Ann, a car wreck of a string of syllables, just metal on metal smashed behind your teeth. (Lacuna, Abyss, Chasm.) It doesn’t matter you were named after your mother’s baby sister, run over on her tricycle after she rolled into the road some forty years ago. (Ravage, Desolate, Annihilate.) You should have gotten your own name. (Swarm, Pestilence, Purgatory.) You shouldn’t be the shadow that crosses your grandma’s face every time she says your name. (Dementia, Dystopia, Sepulcher.) You should have been the tinkle of notes on the wind. (Diminish, Chaotic, Appendectomy.) Names should float on the air like music.
Things We Lost in the Move
The second-string spatulas. The smallest saucepan. Half of the lemon squeezer. All of the food processor blades but one. The zoodle spiralizer.
The draft that lifts the hair off the backs of our necks no matter where we stand or how we insulate the windows. The rippling under the paint on the bedroom wall. The movement in the corners of our eyes. The echoes that sigh down the halls and rattle the shutters. The long shadows forever tracking us through the house.
Control of my tears. Modulation of the volume of my voice. Your wedding ring. One overweight cat.
A 1972 Witness Statement for the Police Sketch Artist Crumbles When You Lift It from the Water-Damaged Case File
Witness describes a white man a Caucasian man a man most certainly not from the Caucasus mountain range a man who is most definitely an American a man who has the local accent where the vowels come out honking and rounded from deep within the nose a man you wouldn’t look at twice a man average in every way a white man no more than 5’11” and no less than 5’7” a man of middling build nothing to write home about but no beer gut all the same a man no more than 37 years old and no less than 24 a man with nondescript straight hair a little overgrown not dark enough to be brown not light enough to be blond yes there was a full beard patchy on the cheeks yes there was a struggling mustache curling over thin lips thinner than that pretend he has hardly any mouth at all sunken like a shipwreck in that bramble of a beard a large nose yes a strong nose maybe crooked or maybe it was the way the light caught it the way the spray of freckles mimed the throw of shadows the eyes could have been anything could have been red for all I know but statistically yes statistically I’ll have you know I went to college statistically his eyes were brown because most people’s are but that’s not important here you have to get this part right this will blow the whole thing wide open be sure to show the whites of his eyes the whites all the way around the irises the whites like a swallowing howl.