Do you have a plan? the hotline asked.
Is that how it works? I imagine
Virginia’s matted mind cross-thread
with equations and buoyancy.
Sylvia testing the dials on a live chicken.
I’ve only focused on their second-most famous act:
They should have called the hotline.
They could have started a new life pouring coffee:
bubblegum hair dye, a lace tattoo
peaking out beneath the apron,
the horned voices, thick as ink,
dissolving in the tune
It was all yellow.
That could be my life.
I don’t have to let failure get to me.
It’s just writing, for Chrissakes.
It’s just excavation, a catch-and-release
of primal whispers I scribble out
in the windstorm of income and outcome,
of mortality as linear as growing wrinkles.
It’s just the dissertation of my breast
sent up like a hospital prayer into the
cosmic graveyard; the stars we keep forgetting
have already died, because they’re all yellow.
Do you know where I want to be buried,
I’d asked my professor,
pulling the sheet up to our shoulders.
My lit textbook.
He was quiet.
Like a trash bag filled with rejection letters.
Like my therapist
when I asked how much time is acceptable
to spend working on a funeral plot.
The oven clicks hungrily by the kitchen window
where the icy cobalt river churns
behind parked Chryslers.
My Norton Anthology gathers dust
around the rectangle where my phone sits.
The hotline won’t tell you this,
consider giving up on your dreams.
It’s as easy as abortion.
Half of you still gets to live.
Lay on the altar of survival
as the scalpel becomes as much a part of you
as the clung tubes fighting for dominance,
the withered limbs slipping off like wet seeds,
a plucked-out heart that isn’t yours.
It’s not a crime to save the host
or say it was a hard decision.
Everyone deserves a plan b.
Elisabeth Sharber is a 12th grade English and Etymology teacher in Frankfort, Indiana. When she is not grading, she writes poems and jokes while her cat scoffs at her sense of importance. She enjoys sharing her writing in open mics and has been published in The American Aesthetic, FLARE, and Driftwood Press.