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Ashley C. Ford reads Shira Erlichman's poem, "Unwished For".


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Hi, my name is Ashley C. Ford.  I'm a writer, host, and podcaster, and today, I'll be reading "Unwished For" by Shira Erlichman.  It's a poem that really speaks to me because it has to do with infertility, mental health, and also sort of the perception of what a life is worth when it has something to show.

Unwished For

I'm standing in my town's ice cream shop when I notice them: the white couple
smiling at me.  Blonde woman standing beside a mailbox, waiting patiently for
news, husband reassuringly placing a hand on her shoulder.  The flyer they're on is
pink: international color of positivity in the face of infertility.  They are having a 
hard time, my couple.  That's why they're here in my ice cream shop. But they have 
faith, they're trying, haven't quit wanting what they want, in spite of it all.

          Could you be the one?

I lick the crest of my cone slowly, examine their bullet-pointed criteria.

           21 to 42 years.

It's not conscious, but somewhere inside a voice says: "Check."

           No criminal record.                            "Check."
           No history of mental illlness.               

I say out loud to the paper, not caring if the teenager behind me churning into an 
icy chunk with a steady fist hears, I say: I know this is different, Susan, Jim, but I
would never wish Frida to not have been hit by that trolley.  I would never look her
in the face and say, 'I choose to unmake you and your paintings and your horror-
ing heart.  I rob the woods of your little deer.'"

"It's different," Susan says, "You're not Frida."

"Plus," adds Jim, "That was physical.  A freak accident.  Try another argument."

What they don't want of me lives.  It sees through my eyes that they would prefer
it dead.  It knows better than to whimper, or show defeat.  What they don't want 
of me breathes.  

"Eugenicists," it says

The woman gasps, hand to chest.  

It continues, "You want to spare yourselves.  That's not love."  

"We don't want her to suffer," they chime in unison.  Oh--Her?  It was decided: A 
girl.  Claire.  Or Vanessa.  Or, Claire.  She'd have red curls, love olives, sing in her

"She doesn't want to suffer either," I peeled the words open slowly, "But she'd
rather be alive than not suffer."  

I am not talking to a piece of paper in Herrell's Ice Cream Shop.  I am not invoking
Frida.  I am not naming an unloved ghost Claire.  I'm licking my wrist of a smudge
of strawberry cream, listening to the terrible Top 40 hit blaring overhead.  I'm
staring at the words No history of mental illness, trying to move my feet, and leave
the world where this is taped up, natural as the moon.  

Will the Norman Rockwell of our time paint me standing here before it? In my 
jean cut-offs, finishing what's left of a soggy cone, drugs in my blood, unwished 
for by strangers.