Nine Drops of Turpentine
Alafia Nicole Sessions
Reading Time: 2 minutes
"Nine Drops of Turpentine" originally appeared in Issue 22 of Tahoma Literary Review. This piece, unfortunately, is even more timely than the day I first read it. As we lose autonomy over our bodies, what do we say to each other as a balm against despair? This poem struck me with its epistolary whisper and the craft of its tightly entwined message.
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If a time comes where there is no other
way / if you find that the world has turned
bitter as nine mugwort / if you suspect
that your blood will sour should you begin
to produce drops of milk / if in the moment
the pit of your turpentine stomach chokes
the soft night of your throat / if you
want to preserve the sweet valley of flesh
in between your evergreen legs / if
I’m not there to knit the bones of your hips
back together with my teaspoon hands / if
you are alone but do not want to be,
like the final elm in a forest of sugar-
felled lovers / if there is no friend
to steady your bulging branches, to whisper
you still / if you reach for me and find me
empty or nine days gone, save yourself,
life will come back through if it needs to.
Sessions had this to say about her piece:
Last year, my family’s one hundred-year-old matriarch shared with me how her father, the town medicine man and veterinarian, used home remedies to end the unwanted pregnancies of the community’s dogs. Last summer, legislation was passed in Texas which limits providers from performing abortions after six week’s gestation. Compounding this blow to reproductive freedom was the creation of an anti-abortion whistleblower website. I asked myself what I would say to my young daughter when she is of reproductive age.
Alafia Nicole Sessions is a black poet and mother living in Los Angeles, where she currently works as an educator, actress, herbalist and doula.