From “Under the Knife”
I didn’t want one child. I wanted a thousand. Because though you may try, you can’t kill all of them. My body couldn’t birth a thousand, so I didn’t even bring one here. I let you have them. One by one, and
I had my first surgery when I was eighteen. No, seven. No. I had my first surgery when I was thirty-five. No, when I was forty-seven. I almost had my first surgery today. The doctor drew an all-seeing eye around my wound to diagram the length and width of the scar with a purple magic marker. To be honest, I had my first surgery when they pulled me
deadfirst headfirst from between my mother’s thighs. But I don’t remember that one; the separation of my flesh from the source of all I’d known. Muddy vessel, crumbling temple.
This carved body, overgrown garden, nest of the narcotic.
My first ten years were mostly marked by my relentless pursuit to not look pregnant when I went out in public. One of my goals each day was to not have someone ask me in public — hopeful look in their gesturing gaze, so excited by the prospect of a coming Christmas
“Are you ...?”
and to have to shatter their hopes of Dream Baby, and simultaneously begin the Emotional Labor of soothing their embarrassment after hearing, “No.” Because a woman with a swollen or distended abdomen can only mean one thing. And that thing is always joyous and awaited with excited anticipation. A woman with a distended abdomen couldn’t possibly be dealing on the daily with something gone terribly awry. Couldn’t possibly be engaged in an ongoing war for her body, a custody battle for her own self. A woman’s swollen belly is everybody’s Good News, everybody’s Business.
So that’s how I spent five years in my thirties: running around evading expectations my deceptive uterus induced in family, friends, and rank fucking strangers.
What they took from me:
What they scooped out of me:
What they carved
from out of me:
What they excavated from me:
What they dug out of me:
What they released from me:
What they harvested from me:
What they pulled from me:
What they birthed from me:
— a colony of tumors
— an archive of NOs
— a battalion of rogue dreams
— an inheritance of heartbreaks
— a lockbox of my foremothers’ molestations
— a cedar chest of secrets
— four generations of the miscarried and stillborn
— a library of zeros
— a ledger of names written in decimal points
— my grandfather’s shriveled aspirations
— a moldy cellar of witnessed whippings
— a jewelry box of swollen tongues
— a Bible of abducted children
Everyone is invested in policing the Black body. Yes, even you. And there’s a particularly virulent investment in the surveillance and policing of the Black Woman (née “Female”) Body. In fact there are multiple systems, most of them economic, that hinge upon controlling, corralling, and commodifying the female body in general. Why do you suppose, in the Year of Our Lord Two Thousand and Seventeen, the ocean vomited up twenty-six dead Nigerian girls on the gorgeous Mediterranean coast?
Pussy and Blackness are two of the first moneymakers ever recorded. And if you got both, well then, you know what time it is, right?
[Bend over so I can swipe this credit card down your ass.]
What information is passed through a genetic line? What memories are housed in our cells? Are our memories the memories of some memories of some long-dead, unknown Ancestors along the line? What traumas do we carry that we picked up along the way, that were never ours to begin with?
Krista Franklin is a writer and visual artist. She earned her MFA in Interdisciplinary Arts from Columbia College Chicago. She is the author of Under the Knife (Candor Arts, forthcoming 2018) and the chapbook Study of Love & Black Body (Willow Books, 2012). Her work has appeared in Poetry magazine,...