“The Crowd,” photograph by Tammy Ruggles, 2015.

by Lauren Yates

Each homecoming, the blood stops pearling out of me.

The bottle of hydrogen peroxide remains in the cabinet.
I go months without buying tampons. I stop eating fruit.

I crave black and white milkshakes and fried zucchini
with ranch and sriracha. If there isn’t chocolate or garlic,
it’s of no use to me. My resting pose is hand to belly.

I try to figure out which one night stand could be the father.
How many weeks along I must be before I can terminate.
How one can conceive from sex that has forgotten clenching joy.

This time of year, I have no more than twenty-six dollars
to my name. I buy a pregnancy test and two energy drinks.
The tests always come back negative. I cry out the water weight.

There is something about traveling home that stops the blood.
My womb becomes a howling dog warning me of danger.

Each time I board a plane to see my family, I am plagued with
false motherhood. I come from a tribe of women that all
couldn’t or shouldn’t be mothers. I do not want children,

unless I know I would be a good mother. My mother says
she used to cry herself to sleep asking why I didn’t love her.

She has conveniently forgotten the hours I spent locked in
cars, the hunger pains, the beatings I faced for having an
opinion. This darkness is like labor pains, how easily
a woman forgets once she wants another child.

omega man

Lauren Yates is a San Diego transplant who is currently based in Philadelphia. Her writing has appeared in XOJane, FRiGG, Melusine, and The Bakery. Lauren is also a poetry editor at Kinfolks Quarterly. Aside from poetry, she enjoys belly dancing, baking quiche, and pontificating on the merits of tentacle erotica. For more information, visit laurentyates.com.