A Doctor's Glossary of Terms for the Female Body

by Emma Bolden

A woman’s womb is a closed fist. An upside-down pear. The apple that, serpent-struck, she plucked from God’s forbidden tree. And God has never forgotten. If her womb contains a fetus, the clenched fist opens, calmed by her body’s obedience. The pear swells to the size of a cantaloupe. A watermelon. Encourage the female patient to think of fruit. Encourage the female patient to imagine herself as peel, meant to enclose and protect. Meant to be discarded once it’s past its use. If her womb grows a tumor instead of a child, say the growth is the size of a grape. The shape of a cluster of grapes. Let your language travel to orchards heavy as blossom, useless as scent. Call the tumor a lemon. An orange. A small or large grapefruit. Encourage her to imagine pain as a harvest. Remind her that the Bible asks us to bear great fruit. End the appointment if she suggests the Bible puts it all on women and that seems unfair. End the appointment if she says well, the Bible was written by men. Tell her to imagine the membrane encasing her abdomen as a lining – her mind will, with certainty, think of silk – or a sack. A purse. Should endometriosis pull holes through this fabric, call them windows. Say it hopefully. She will remember: a window is the hole through which we are offered the world. She will learn that if there is one thing the world doesn’t offer, it’s an explanation. Another thing unoffered: a cure. Remind her that the truth of her body is the truth of a building made meaningful only by what’s held inside. Hospital. Cathedral. Home. Wreck. Condemned. If inside her pelvis small sacks of skin gather fluid, do not call it blood. Call it harmless. Call it insignificant. Call it something so small she’ll keep silence when you say there’s nothing you can do. Can do or won’t do? End the appointment. A woman’s body is a question that always must curve back her way.

Emma Bolden is the author of House Is an Enigma (Southeast Missouri State), medi(t)ations (Noctuary), and Maleficae (GenPop). The recipient of an NEA Fellowship, her work has appeared in The Norton Introduction to Literature, The Best American Poetry, and such journals as the Mississippi Review, The Rumpus, StoryQuarterly, Prairie Schooner, New Madrid, TriQuarterly, Shenandoah, and the Greensboro Review. She serves as Associate Editor-in-Chief for Tupelo Quarterly. Visit her online at www.emmabolden.com.