Little Deaths [1982]

Strange womb music surrounds you.
You must have twisted a thousand times,
shaking safely in my body.

Product of my own infancy,
You gave me a hammer to break the mirror.
Can you smash my heart as you have before,
even now?
Without an infancy you were robbed —
you are old.

“Oh I’m sick,” he says.
Only women know what sick really is,
split in half by a stranger they don’t know,
but who is part of them.

Something curing in an antiseptic bin of death,
you are.
I could have crushed you between my thumb and forefinger —
your juices flowing brilliant, out, mixed with mine.
You were nothing, they said.
You would have had blonde hair.

I lay down on the bed of whiteness.

I, waiting to be mechanically enlarged
to receive the instrument.
I wouldn’t feel it, they said.
A horrible crush in my bowels, it spread to my soul.
It came down to where you were waiting.

Foreign matter in a clean, young body.
You must be gotten out.
I stood it all, watching the life pour out of my body,
emptying myself on that table.

One less mouth to feed,
A life saved.
A care package.
I smile.
I am the one who grins.

It is the survival of the fittest.
Had you been born with Down Syndrome, I would have rationalized it that way.
But you were far too small to tell.

When they grin, you know it is death.
I am the soldier who pushes the barrel of his rifle
into the last soft parts of a shivering cadaver
with lice, ticks, dysentery, hopelessness.

I am he who fires,
quickly and pleasurably, into that cadaver,
feeling and seeing the spatter on the heated barrel
of my weapon.

I am the monster who hangs pregnant women by their feet,
and with my sharp knife, excises,
taking both lives with my blade.

And I feel the warm blood on my hands.
Not to allow an error, I cut the child,
looking within.
Like Russian dolls, there is another within it,
and within it another, and within it another.

I throw it away.
I am bored.

Yet more, I am the smiling gentleman who drops fate
on thousands of lives
that enjoy the same moment of destruction.
“Have a nice day.”

I am the one who silently smiles,
playing cards,
her golden-curled image in mind as I later jerk off in my cubicle.

I am the one who turns away smiling,
thinking of Sunday’s golf game,
as the child who looks listlessly up at me,
ruined legs and thighs and buttocks wealed smooth
by boiling water I have dipped them in,
attempts to cry through blistered lips.

I smile.

I am the one who cannot envision my body blistered,
red, glistening smooth from the seething self-hate of another monster.
I can not envision the pain inflicted on others.

I am the butcher who maims on call.
Mother, son, aunt, child.
I am a flayed skin of agony because I lie.

I am the twisted face removed from the skull,
hanging from the hands of Saint Michael
as he ascends the stairs to paradise.

Under a filthy neon skyline,
under rotting yellow clouds,
we butcher, maim, kill
every day.
And nothing is thought of it.

We ask and are forgiven.

  • Amy Sterling (Glasband) Casil — December, 7 1982

This poem and others in my senior collection received the Claremont 5-College writing prize in a blind judging for the second year in a row. My friends were certain I’d had an abortion (I had not).

Then the guy who was in charge of the prize hit me in the back of the head with a glass ashtray and raped me.



Over 500 million views and 5 million published words. Author of 45 books, former exec, Nebula nominee, poor. Interests: future, human tech, economy, nature.

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Amy Sterling Casil

Amy Sterling Casil

Over 500 million views and 5 million published words. Author of 45 books, former exec, Nebula nominee, poor. Interests: future, human tech, economy, nature.