Martha Silano

Ode to Fertility: the Crescendo, the Dénouement

Long before the time had come to bid you adieu,
tip my faux fur fez to your sassy-hussy strut,

drop to my knees for one last infectious genuflection,
you were with me on the baseball field, staining

my whitest Tuesdays, besotting me with dozens
of dozen-Motrin-defying cramps, the stiff gait

up the stairs to Mr. Langbein’s 9th period math,
the pimples and the torrents, though also the cone-

headed boy who slipped out like a five-pound bass,
a startled fawn these must be the two who kept singing

“I want to go home with the armadillo.” Fertility, you served up
the Koolaid that led me to brush a knee against the knee

of the cord-cutting soul, let that fish flap free. Oh dear girl,
is there anything I can do to keep you from retrieving

your Samsonite from the basement, snatch from your bureau
every last dram of Eau de Estrogen? Now you’re the daughter

sulking down to the breakfast table less and less,
until one day you’re loading a U-Haul, begging me

to let you take, along with great grandma’s wedding ring quilt,
the family cat. Without you my bed’s a smoking skillet,

my hair a nest of straw; my brain, bereft of its luster,
requiring an extra beat to recall the name of that thing

that shields me from the rain. I’m not candy-
coating the low-back pain, the monthly bouts of doubt

the way the makers of Advil do, a crust so sweet
the kitchen ants swarm them like Milk Duds.

Hoodwinked by hormones to replace myself,
though either way the nightgown’s damp,

the bladder’s thinly-walled. Oh, eggs!
I’m a hoopoe, the stupid goose who thought

she had a purpose, a jolly good reason to live.


Seven driveways bereft of their houses,
their two-car garages. Bottle of body mist

balanced on a bureau; on a chest of drawers,
a cable box, while two hours away in Broken

Arrow, a cancelled check flutters to the ground.
Like the school was flying, someone said, someone

lodged in the eye, in a place where the drill
was tuck up, wait it out, where Jennifer Doan,

newly pregnant, wrapped a dozen students
in her arms as the walls let go. With fractured

sternum and spine, with a length of rebar
jutting into her side, listened to the ones

below her: I can’t hold this rock much longer,
then no sound at all. You could taste the dirt

falling from the ceiling, smell the gas, hear
the pounding at the door shut tight as we could,

this once-in-a-million happening twice
in fourteen years, June Simson crying

on the shoulder of Jo McGee beside a row
of concrete slabs, seven driveways leading to nowhere.

Author Portrait

Martha Silano is the author of What the Truth Tastes Like, Reckless Lovely, The Little Office of the Immaculate Conception (winner of the 2010 Saturnalia Books Poetry Prize), Blue Positive, and, with Kelli Russell Agodon, The Daily Poet: Day-By-Day Prompts for your Writing Practice. Saturnalia Books will release a new collection in 2019. Martha’s poems have appeared in Poetry, Paris Review, American Poetry Review, and New England Review, among others. She’s spent time at the Millay Colony of the Arts, the University of Arizona Poetry Center summer residency, Yaddo, and elsewhere. She teaches at Bellevue College.

View the website of Martha Silano