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©2018 Barren Magazine. An Alt.Lit Introspective.

The Purported Last Words of Ruth Blay

by Erin Emily Ann Vance

Tell me where I’ll be hanged.
The elm? The gallows? The balcony
of my lover’s home?
Don’t let my students watch, don’t
let the girls see. I haven’t yet
taught them what it means to be

a woman, they don’t know the weight
of an infant dead and peeking up through
the slats in the floor. Let them live quietly
for now. I will visit them in their dreams
and tell them of this pain when they are ready.

Tell me where I’ll be hanged.
I’m not the first and I won’t be the last,
us girls in barns give birth to
burdens and those burdens lay
burdenless, planted beneath the floor
like mandrakes with unwed mothers.

Tell me where I’ll be hanged and I’ll
wear my sunday best to the unmarked grave.
Tell me where I’ll be hanged and when it’s over
lay an altar to the child who stopped kicking
seven months in.

Burn an effigy of me and warn the girls
that this is what becomes of women
who want and women who watch and
women who wander.

Warn them that motherhood is death
and spinsterhood is death and death is
the colour of menstrual blood
and breast milk.

Warn them.

Header photograph © Corina Orphanou.

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