Annual Checkup

This patientís warm body under my hands
smells fragrant, womanly.
Itís my own perfume. This is like bathing myself
in scented bubbles.
Hereís another mother, another woman my age,
come to the doctor for a checkup.
She presents her body to me
knowing Iíve done the same things as her--
been pregnant three times and had Pap tests,
lain on couches to be examined,
to be touched, to be handled by workers
hired to take care of me.
This is like the horse standing patiently to be groomed,
the girl child waiting while mother braids her hair.

How different are the girls at the teen clinic;
resentfully submitting 
to the forms and stirrups
to get their birth control pills.
They wince and shudder,
they clamp their knees together, 
somehow they have made love with the boy,
itís for him they are doing this,
but they canít let a woman touch them,
theyíre so tense that I hurt them,
much to my sorrow.
I want to tell them,
this is a motherís care I give you.

Once you give yourself to men
you give yourself to nurses and doctors;
once you move into your woman body
you canít move out again. Take a look around.
Look, your cervix is pretty and pink.
Iíll touch it with this little wooden stick.
Thatís it. You see? Over in ten seconds.
The first of many.

Come forward into womanhood.
Put on perfume, come to the wise womanís hut,
the midwifeís tent, the hairdresserís little shop,
the doctorís office.
Weíll gather around you, bring tea, braid your hair.

—Kirsten Emmott


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Photo: Jane Weitzel / Illustration: Bev Leech
© 2001 Kirsten Emmott
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