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Friday, May 06, 2022


by Dick Altman

Source: “Abortion” by John Bartlow Martin from the May 20, 1961, issue of the Saturday Evening Post.

he’s the golden boy
of parent/teacher/friend
the boy wanted on everyone’s side
the scholarship boy
the grad school boy
the golden boy
who in that familiar moment
of uncontrolled/youthful rapture
watches his golden prospects
for the future turn to dross
the Viet Nam draft
breathes down his neck
he still hasn’t found a job
(too educated, he’s told)
he’s not married
(though one day he will
marry the woman
he impregnated)
they are neither ready to marry
nor ready to have/support children
abortion is illegal
Roe vs. Wade is nowhere in sight
he reaches out to his composer father
who reaches out to friends
in the music business
an address and phone number
in Harlem surfaces
no names/no receipts
the golden boy borrows
from his father enough cash
to pay for a semester of college
the young couple agree
this is their only alternative
they discuss their mutual anxiety
she—they agree—must make
the decision
they never talk about what exactly
took place on the fourth floor
of the Harlem walk-up
she’s bleeding profusely by bed time—
in the emergency room by next morning
a spontaneous abortion the doctor calls it
knowing it wasn’t
whatever made the embryo abort
likely ended her/their prospects
of ever having children
Roe vs. Wade would not be decided
for another nine years
Politico’s revelation the Supreme Court
may overturn the decision
shatters him to tears

Dick Altman writes from New Mexico. His work has been widely published in the United States and beyond.