Ultra by Shannon Curtin

While waiting for weeks to find out if my unborn child would be declared a son or daughter, I scoured the internet for insider information. Pouring over potty shots on various baby websites, I learned from other genital-obsessed, with-child women that sonogram technology has advanced in recent years; identifying a fetus as female no longer rests on the absence of a penis, but now includes the detection of definitive labia. This is nothing short of a victory.

I like to point out to my I’m not a feminist, but acquaintances that until relatively recently men could legally rape their wives in the United States and that workplace sexual harassment was made unlawful in my lifetime. Earlier this year, a sexually assaulted student at one of our country’s most prestigious universities gave up her fight to have her attacker relocated out of her residence hall. After months of pleading, the university told her that she, the victim, was free to move if she wished and washed their hands of any responsibility.

Even in utero females have historically found their identity in absence, they are categorized as not male, the second half of an if/then statement, the other. They are marked as lacking before they take their first breath. We tell ourselves things have changed, that women are no longer second class. Women, we say, are out-performing men in schools. They are capable, respected, and present in every possible industry. They say we have come so far.

But in darkened rooms we still look at screens with images that tell us when there is something damaged, something suspect, something missing; the result is often girl.


Shannon J. Curtin is a displaced Yankee currently residing in Portsmouth, Virginia with her husband and dog. Her poetry has been featured in various publications including Short, Fast, and Deadly, Vox Poetica, y’all’d’ve, and The Camel Saloon. Her first chapbook, File Cabinet Heart, is forthcoming from Emerge Literary Publications. She holds an MBA, competitive shooting records, and her liquor. She would probably like you.

I’m Trying to Figure Out How To Save The World

I’m trying to figure out how to save the world
Men reshaped and molded it, using one element and then the next
Ignorant to the state of their neighbors
Most people on the world are slaves to the limits of their resources
We are not equals
But now we must put aside our differences
Forget what one has done to the Other
To save this earth, stripped and shaved
This earth that is not my body, to be claimed, capitalized on and discarded
As if there will be no lasting effect
As if I don’t remember the night I realized I could die
The night I thought I would leave
But didn’t
This earth cannot be me
Silent, waiting
Hoping things will get better
Hoping if we understand the man he will stop
Thinking time will heal it, him
The earth, this society, is singing its death song
And most of us haven’t even found our voice yet

I do not know how to act
My stereotype threat prepares me for every important encounter
Speaking on a subject I am impassioned about, but poorly educated on
When will there be enough information to convince you I am not a woman?
Someone they assume knows nothing
Holding a lowly position
Any position
I am afraid of

It’s easy to forget my agency
To feel like it was taken, used too quickly by those with power
Who never asked
I never asked

Now, equality cannot be the issue
We must save this body
This body they have used
To what end
Another man in charge
Following what another man tells me is a good idea
I do not want his agenda to be my agenda
I want us, the silent us
To be what saves the earth

I cannot sit by
Not knowing what action looks like
Not holding the optimism necessary to embark on this endeavor
I have other things to do
Work on this belly roll
File my taxes
Order more contacts
Drink more water
Make art
Invest
Couldn’t someone else do it?