Say the Word

I never heard the word abortion in church
When I was a child. So many Sundays
I listened to cis-men who tried not to come
Within ten feet of a uterus, who had themselves
Made a choice, a vow, to parent no children,
Preach from the towering pulpit about protecting
Life, and they didn’t say the word but we all knew
Whose lives they meant to defend. I read in
The weekly bulletin, editorials demanding respect
For the unborn, written by the Knights of Columbus.
Yes, that same Columbus who wrenched nursing
Babies away from their mothers with his own hands.
And we didn’t say abortion, but we said his name.
I heard about the valiant fight against the tyranny of
Someone named Roe or Wade, I never was sure who
My enemy was supposed to be, but we passed the
Basket for special collections to battle them. Battle
We did, from our pulpit and our pews and our publications.

And downstairs, in the church kitchen, I never heard
Anyone say abortion, but I did hear the mothers
Whisper to one another about which doctor to call,
I heard the organist offer rides to a clinic far enough
Away to not be seen by the prying eyes of God or whoever
Else. I saw aunties quietly slip round sleeves of pills
Into teenagers’ shaky hands. And in the Sunday school
Hallway they took up collections of their own sort,
To pay for a nameless “procedure” for Mary Teresa or
Mary Angela or Mary Elizabeth or someone inevitably
Named for that single unmarried mother.

No one said the word abortion in the hallowed halls
Or the dingy basement of my church, but everybody
Knew about them. Needed them. Got them.
And even while we descend into the dim reality of having
To slip each other cash in secret, traffic one another
Over borders, break laws and vows and bodies, I know
As long as the people of this church let me
Stand in this space, I sure as hell will never stop
Saying it here.