Closets pretending to be for coats By Marie Anzelone

Closets pretending to be for coats

I. the 16 year-old

She has learned how to locate her cervix, while lying naked

in water as hot as she can bear, door firmly locked on a night

when her mother is not home; she has cut her hands unbending

heavy wire, making it as straight as possible, and someone told

her hot water will make you feel it less; she has read of

perforation and thus carefully determined the placement of her

uterus, how far it extends, she is not exactly sure how the wire

is supposed to work, so she moves as deliberately as she can,

systematically, reasoning that if she hits every surface, it will do the

job. She feels her way, blindly, threading untwisted wire through

the tiny opening she holds in place with fingers that have never

explored this deeply before. There is some sort of discharge

the third time, third day… she is hopeful; but neither blood nor

release comes; only increasing nausea and moodiness

and we are told, she says later, that the enthralling tale of what men

talk about endlessly in bars, is far more important than the

stories of women and girls lying in the world’s beds and bathtubs

trying to undo damage, mistakes, regrets, shame, terror… all of which

she still rolls between thumb and forefinger, even today, as a woman

of some accomplishment she cannot meet eyes during interview, feeling

such the fraud, stained, she has worked half a lifetime trying to make it

right with God


and she wants to be a doctor when she grows up, but is confused- how

can this decision ever let her sanctify life?  She would erase it all like

she erases unwieldy shadows on her sketches, but where does one begin

holding the pencil? He only outweighed her by 120 pounds; she should

have known better than to accept dinner, she had a boyfriend (the one

who handed her wire from the closet, when she confided, saying,

“It’s your problem, deal with it, slut) what was she thinking? Could she

walk backwards, unstep from that trip, suggest something else to do?

In pride she buries these things, 12 feet under; she is stripped of thought,

of “no,” of even the true pleasure of “yes,” each passing year marks another

foot closer to unearthing, but in panic she has learned to use raw ammonia

as backup contraceptive, because what she saw in those bright lights at

a women’s center will never erase the stains, and what kind of patient

will ever want a shameful hussy as their doctor anyway? She has heard

that extreme pH will prevent future walks down hallways dark enough

to be endlessly lost in. This wardrobe does not lead to Narnia, three days

later she too rises from the dead, steps forward, pretending nothing

ever happened, but the smell of ammonia will always make her urethra

burn with sympathy.

II.  The 22 year-old

She is working sub-minimum wage to save money for her last semester

when she realizes she is starting a trimester, with the dawning horror

that her man will never have less than 3 more on the side, and wants her

to unburden herself of useless aspirations; and she feels motherhood now

coiling itself like Eliot’s fog as strangling cords around her throat, she

wakes and feels bruises; there is no money saved for doctors, she has to

save for relief, and go to another state; this one has started mandatory

wait periods designed to shame poor women; she is tiny and hurting, and

she goes to the only place she can afford, and when she is dilated without

anesthesia her body descends into shock, and is told by the male doctor,

“at least you are not carrying anymore,” and she learns that she is allergic

to doxycycline when she vomits all over the car on the ride home, and he

makes her clean the car as punishment. And she works the next day,

collapsing from blood loss, but hey, never let them see you sweat, or cry

or scream… and when she breaks her heart against a tree, breaking an

already broken wooden crate into the splinters her more than broken soul

knows- she is seen, brought in for questioning, real police interrogation.

Instability, madness. Female weakness is the determination. Keep her

under watch, but probably not a real threat.

she shakes and is released, blacklisted for work; she goes into hiding for

2 years because living on streets and in the grace of friends’ charity is

far better than abasement. and she says, later, there is more than one

form of slavery in this world, and she works harder than any two men

in her circle to work her way back up from bedrock; she runs and runs

without ever knowing exactly how far, how fast, how long, how high,

will ever be good enough. It is years before she fills closets with clothes

that show women’s legs and curves, before she lets someone caress her

spirit; she is terrified of ever caring; she makes a promise to the world

to care for all lost things and lost ones, as compensation for her unspoken

debts to life. And she walks unfettered of this particular slavery, to pick

up another form.

III. The 35 year-old

She is emotionally and wearily ambivalent; scared of her partner in ways

she cannot quite identify, holding medical results in her hands, serious

conditions, requiring x-rays and intense treatment; she is told, you cannot

get the treatment here, your insurance will not cover, and by the way if

you do not get treatment, you will lose your place in the program… and we

will not do treatment if you are pregnant. She is completely dependent, she

has nowhere to turn; she is unsure how she feels anyway when her lover

already has more than he can care for; she walks fences in her dreams, where

she holds children she has not necessarily given birth to; she feels lumps on

her cervix and knows what that probably means too and there is no money

for doctors; she knows she will choose one future or another with her decision

and she walks past the assholes praying at her with head held high, and

there is regret, but it is the lesser of regrets. She comes home in a blizzard

and crawls through 3 feet of snow and spends days alone at home, relieved

and unsure if she wants or will ever get another chance; her body is telling her

just how much is wrong: lungs, heart, mind, womb, breast…

and she would say, there are some roads a woman will walk forever, and

that is ok, too, because there are some destinations we will always need

to be free to choose, and she knows she will feel torn every single time

a friend proudly poses with a newborn on Facebook, just as she will always

cringe inside every time someone else gets married after she and her man

inevitably split ways, having realized completely incompatible life visions

that probably started in the womb if one looks honestly.


and she thinks, how is it that birth control that worked for 7 years, failed

now, at the only moment I could not have endured it? And she knows how

to touch inside to check on things, and she knows her female body and its

G, U, and A spots; she wishes to find a lover who will learn them too AND

learn to care for her heart in the process; she knows how to thread a

catheter through her cervix too to try to do things by herself, because she

shares something in common with girls who learn vague lessons of coat

hangers at 16, something about the shame of registries and judgment and

the dignity of privacy, and she knows that one day she will have more to

give a child, whether or not she gives birth; and she also knows that at 3 am

that day will feel like an eternity away in her waiting, and she would say,

we have come so far, but some closets will never in our lifetime be safe

for coming out of, which is a damned shame because closets really should

be for collecting and hanging clothes that make you feel proud to be a woman…

and coat hangers should only ever be seen as tools to hang things other than

your own soul.

By Marie Anzelone


Marie Anzalone currently splits her time between residences in New England and upstate NY in the United States and Guatemala in Central America. Originally from Appalachian Pennsylvania, she spent her early years studying ecology and nature first-hand in the woods around her home. She is an artist, scientist, writer, economics master’s degree candidate, avid outdoorswoman and start-up director of an international development non-profit organization. She has been published in human rights journals, scientific journals, and poetry anthologies. She writes fiction and non-fiction in both English and Spanish. She attempts in her writing to bridge the gap between real world influence and the individual’s inner journey to find spirit and meaning. Anzalone released two collections of poetry in 2014. Her debut collection is called A Pilgrimage in Epistles:: Poems as Letters and Observations. Her sophomore offering is titled Peregrinating North-South Compass Points: Poems in English and Spanish.

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