The club owner was a strong bodied black haired woman who wore boots even in Summer

she looked at me with a hungered expression shot with alcohol fatigue and pronounced

if you cut out your womb you will lose your womanhood, you will lose it all

I lay on the gurney feeling young, filleted, vulnerable

a nurse poked at my stomach and remarked

they didn’t have much skin to work with, it was hard to stitch you closed

ugly words, ugly scar, blessed light streaming through dirty yellow glass window

I shut my eyes and thought of my mother, wishing she were

standing right next to me telling the nurse to go away

but it wasn’t bad, not really

you learn that later, when other things are worse

the tenderness of first assaults.

My womb? It lay suspended in a laboratory somewhere

scars of its dissection sliced like deli marbled meat

I imagined they cut into it unthinkingly

(it’s isn’t life you pulled from my guts, it isn’t testing its lungs against cold air

it isn’t life, but it is a part of me, without a mouth to voice the sense of loss)

what does the lab-tech whose job it is to check removed wombs for cancer

think as they pick up the still sharp scalpel and dissect?

Do they ever wonder whose womb this was? Whether it held life

can they tell that? Do they guess whether the womb had a beautiful face

or long hair, or a house full of children or a cat or

unvarnished floors and un-mended clothes?

Do they pity the womb that held nothing?

The club owner, she wasn’t wrong but she wasn’t right

the error was in thinking I had a choice

and years later looking at photos I see a girl who didn’t lose herself

when she was sliced down the center and the organ they say is the seat of a woman


there are worse things you see, than that

far worse

it may seem negative but it’s not

more, a way we get through little horrors

so we’ll be ready for that phone call in the night

you know the one I mean … the one we all dread.


I feel I am still a handmaiden

preparing for her final challenge

I don’t know what it will be and sometimes

it’s like being a child again scared of changing faces in the dark

playing on the wood of a wardrobe

back when they had wardrobes

and lions and good and evil

nowadays everything is less certain, mutable

as we know more we seek less

people who seem good are not, people who are cruel, do not hide it.

I’d like to think they’d have been kind to my womb

buried her beneath a cherry tree on a clear morning

as I would have

but they don’t even do that even when they love you

they don’t even come to visit and sit beside your headstone

tell you how they are and what they miss about you

not being there anymore

I want you to know, I will put flowers on your tomb

and talk to others about you as if you were still there

because you will be, yes, like a diving bell in my mind

I will seek your memory underwater when descending

for black pearls off the Amalfi coast

if I outlive you, if I outlive my womb in a jar

floating in space, in formaldehyde, an anchor

feeling for the very bottom of the sea

5 Replies to “formaldehyde”

  1. You bring me, I think, as close as I, in my maleness, can come to comprehending that loss, so fundamental an emptiness, with these words you have birthed. Thank you, Candice.

  2. I’m sorry. I know I can write sorrowfully. I spend most of my life encouraging people and lifting them up but in my writing I suppose I reveal the sadness I feel. It isn’t the sum of me, but a part I can’t deny. I am sorry as I never want to be a downer and it’s not really my intention but somehow it ends up being many times the stuff I write has a sadness to it. I apologize and do so appreciate you reading nevertheless. I have thought of you without fail these few weeks – sending you much love my friend.

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