Photography © Lauren Shear


Our Bodies, Our Rights

On June 24, 2022, at the very hour
The Supreme Court struck down
Roe v. Wade,

I was reclining in
a surgical office suite,
eyes covered with wet gauze,

Gums numbed by sharp needles,
awaiting the oral surgeon’s
first slice

to extract a rotted tooth.

Grateful I was, for the surgeon’s skill
and care, as he patiently explained
what he was doing, and why, and where.

Afterward, he showed me the tooth and roots—
So small, with an exocytosis, besides—
that had caused such pain

And swelling for the past month.

An hour later, in anesthetic daze,
I was home again,
reading the aftercare instructions,

before drifting off for a nap.


Dreaming about a girl I knew
in the Fall of 1975,
who rose before dawn,

Shaking like a falling leaf,
to recline in a different
office surgical suite,

to end an unintended pregnancy.

Ashamed, she was,
Yet grateful, too,
for the surgeon’s skill
and care, his patient explanation
of what he was doing, and why, and where.

She never told her parents,
but they knew.
Never said a word,

But they knew.

She never got pregnant again.

Had she had the baby,
she would have lost her job—
Lost her nascent career.

Every succeeding year,
she cried for her lost fetus,
wondered what kind of mother

she might have been…


The day after Roe v. Wade was struck down,
a friend asked this question:

What are your “go to” choices when you feel overwhelmed?

I answered:

Solitude and silence.

Music hath not charm to soothe the savage beat
of rage in my heart.

My teeth hurt.

Not just
because of yesterday’s dental surgery
to remove a tooth filled with cavities…

But, because I cannot stop
clenching my jaw,
grinding my teeth

at the horror of it all.

This pitiful verse
is all I can muster

for The Horror of It All.


Jackie Oldham (she/her) is a poet and essayist from Baltimore, MD. She lives to write/She writes to live. About anything to do with the Human Condition.

Lauren Shear is a museum professional, public historian, and lifelong resident of Massachusetts. She has been working with activist groups since college and has been seeking ways to support communities under attack ever since.