by Alina Stefanescu

At 22, I disappeared for a minute.

I did not respond when called
by my name, that raw handle
you’ve given them to hold me.

I wanted the death Alabama didn’t
offer. I refused sedation or succor
as a specialist did the deed for me.
I needed to be guilty.

After visiting a former lover in Manhattan,
I visited Liberty Clinic, swallowed the first pill,
its origins French as the famous green statue.

I used Mountain Dew to swallow the final pill
on the train for Coney Island. I say Coney when I mean
destination, the termination of pregnancy, the train ending
in a carnival, apart.

The gulls witnessed everything.
I stood on the boardwalk, marveling,
dumbstruck by dizziness as something left
this body, its warmth flooding my jeans.

My hands shook like toy airplanes.

No doula or doctor or nurse or friend intervened. No expert stood between
my breath and the sky,
my breath and the clouds, clotting,,
my breath and the unwanted baby,
my life

and the blood
on my hands, the certain solace,

a choice
I made with myself.
I did it all. I did everything.

I wore the silver mermaid necklace for years,
a souvenir.

About the Author:

Alina Stefanescu was born in Romania and lives in Birmingham, Alabama. She serves as Co-Director of PEN Birmingham. Her debut fiction collection, Every Mask I Tried On, won the Brighthorse Prize and was published in May 2018. Her writing can be found in diverse journals, including Prairie Schooner, North American Review, FLOCK, Southern Humanities Review, Crab Creek Review, Up the Staircase Quarterly, Virga, Whale Road Review, and others. She serves as Poetry Editor for Pidgeonholes, President of Alabama State Poetry Society, Co-Founder of 100,000 Poets for Change Birmingham, and proud board member of Magic City Poetry Festival. Her poetry collection, Defect/or, was a finalist for 2015 Robert Dana Poetry Award. A finalist for the 2019 Kurt Brown AWP Prize, the 2019 Greg Grummer Poetry Prize, the 2019 Frank McCourt Prize, and the 2019 Streetlight Magazine Poetry Contest, Alina won the 2019 River Heron Poetry Prize. More online at or @aliner.

Cover image by Jen Gallardo via Flickr (cc).