Spring 2004 • Vol. XXVI No. 2 Poetry |

Telling the Gospel Truth

I. Who placed this here, BibleI nudge aside to reach the button that brings the nurse who steadies me on wobbly legs as I shuffle to the toilet, grasp the handrails, and shit for the first time since giving birth (You're doing fine, I know it hurts) while my ripped skin burns, while my stitches strain to keep my insides in? The nurses glide on soft shoes and circle fingers deep on my slack belly, pressing out the jellied black blood clots so my uterus can shrink back. So many women have clenched this mattress, clamping breath through the riptides of afterbirth. So many women have rolled in the half-lit predawn beneath the nurses' hands so the blood-rich bedding could be removed. So many women, turning to this book. II. Secular is an ugly word, but there are secular things that are not. Did I mention the hands of the nurses on my shoulder rolling me onto my side, rolling me like a sea otter in a salty swell? They called me Honey. They called me Love. I could have been

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Beth Ann Fennelly directs the MFA Program at the University of Mississippi, where she was named Outstanding Teacher of the Year. She’s won grants from the NEA and United States Artists. Her work has won a Pushcart Prize and three times been included in The Best American Poetry Series. Fennelly has published three books of poems and a book of essays with W. W. Norton. Her most recent book is The Tilted World, a novel she co-authored with her husband, Tom Franklin, published by HarperCollins. They live in Oxford with their three children.


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