Elizabeth Oxley

Expelling Venus

When the doctor says he’ll need to remove
my ovaries, I consider performing a farewell ritual—
hippy shindig with altar, candle, and two stones 
plucked from the river. Instead, I sign in for surgery 
and awake to a stomach pocked with cuts, 
skillful breaking and entering, ovaries gone 
as if snatched by thieves in the night. Nurses roll me 
into a recovery room. In morphine half-dreams
I recall the nude pantyhose my grandmother used
for Christmas stockings. They lined her hearth,
an eerie cabaret of thrombotic legs into which 
my brothers and I thrust our hands each year, 
tearing out what didn’t belong: gift boxes, 
shiny lengths of ribbon, twenty-dollar bill pinned 
to each toe like a callus. That night, I sleep
fitfully on spartan sheets, and in the morning, 
a young orderly helps me from my cot to a wheelchair, 
smiling—beautiful little boy—all the way to the lobby. 
I can have no more children. I clutch my stomach 
and grieve, remembering the doctor’s sketches—
how my tubes resembled horns, my uterus a skull 
my brother once kicked over in a field. It was flocked
with lichen, lower jaw missing as if the earth 
had begun dismantling it bottom-up, leaving the antelope 
mouthing the ground like a bit, so accustomed 
she’d once been to carrying life inside her.