Poem of the Week | August 16, 2021

This week’s Poem of the Week is “On Grieving My Nexplanon After Its Removal” by Monica Prince!

Monica Prince teaches activist and performance writing at Susquehanna University in Pennsylvania and serves as the managing editor of Santa Fe Writers Project. She is the author of How to Exterminate the Black Woman: A Choreopoem ([PANK], 2020), Instructions for Temporary Survival (Red Mountain Press, 2019), and Letters from the Other Woman (Grey Book Press, 2018).


On Grieving My Nexplanon After Its Removal

For the first time in six years,
I walk around clear of any substances
in my blood. It lasts about an hour.

This is not to say
I haven’t been sober a single day
in the last six years, or that

my recklessness has reached new heights.
No, I only mean that between 24 and 30,
I feared nothing more than pregnancy

and today, for the first time since
before my frontal lobe fully developed,
I sit in silence, free and clear.

No hormones. No supplements. No water,
medication, food, or even urine (they
took that, too). I sit quietly at my desk,

vibrating from nothing but my own spit,
conscious, aware, breathing. I will never
be this pure again. Eventually,

I’ll have to eat something, take a pill
or eight, release blood and uterine lining
into a silicone cop or braided cotton tube.

Someone will invite me for drinks.
My lover will fix me an ice cream sundae
or unleash a torrent of semen

toward my womb. I cannot enjoy
even this quiet energy, the sobriety rising
as the half-life of vitamins and hormones

and alcohols dwindles to zero.
What measures I’ve gone through
to maintain my independence—

the prescriptions, localized surgeries,
ovulation schedules, diets, lies—
all to avoid motherhood and marriage.

I don’t think this makes me brave.
I don’t even think this makes me strong.
Maybe it makes me present—

only ever concerned for right now
and fifteen minutes from now.
I think this makes me stable, at least—

maybe. The detox only lasts an hour.
The day rushes at me like harsh wind,
desperate to lift me from the ground,

send me elsewhere. I want to savor
this emptiness, this simple elegance
in my unadulterated vessel.

Instead, muscle memory takes over—
pills, water, tea, breakfast.
My arm throbs beneath its bandage,

shielding an open wound that will scar,
may become infected without prudence,
a marker of the birth control that lived there

these last six years, a protection
I used to crave indefinitely.
But in this moment, my body

a tabula rasa, free even from fear
of my own hedonism torpedoing
my progress toward a motherless future—

I wonder if I may have been wrong.
Can I trust a version of me
that doesn’t exist anymore?


Author’s Note

Just before the pandemic hit the U.S., I made the decision to never have biological children. The risk seemed too great, even before lockdown and capitol insurrection. As a Black woman living in the United States, the vicarious grief of Black bodies dead in the street threatens to drown me daily. My birth control at the time, the Nexplanon implant, was reaching its three-year expiration date, and I chose to get an IUD instead of another implant as a stopgap before scheduling my tubal ligation, per my doctor’s recommendation. I was supposed to get one removed and the other inserted on the same day, but my insurance wouldn’t allow both procedures in the same appointment. This poem came from that limbo between those visits, my first chance to reevaluate my permanent decision.