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Pelican by Mahogany L. Browne

With reproductive freedom under unprecedented attack, Choice Words, edited by poet Annie Finch, takes back the cultural conversation on abortion.

A landmark literary anthology of poems, stories, and essays, Choice Words collects essential voices that renew our courage in the struggle to defend reproductive rights. Twenty years in the making, the book spans continents and centuries. This collection magnifies the voices of people reclaiming the sole authorship of their abortion experiences. These essays, poems, and prose are a testament to the profound political power of defying shame.

Here we present a poem featured in Choice Words, by writer, educator, curator, and activist Mahogany L. Browne.


She quit every job she owned on a Friday

Left the shabby chairs and floor to squeal farewell

She's never been the kind to exit in a sentimental way

A poet, an exposed bone, a girl too fragile, a shaken empty well

To be a forgotten song in the throat of a corpse

To be a washed-up basin on the edge of an ocean's mouth

She crawls towards the sea, towards the sun for a morsel

She lives off the sandcastles blown away, a flimsy house

She wants riches of mangoes and dumplings pinched by brown hands

She wants what her hands can't carry, she wants what she should not

know exists

Sweet bread from her mother's kitchen and green crops from good land

The pelican, intersection death, beak w i d e with its flushed pink

stomach persists

Don't ask her what she does not know, don't ask her about marriage or


Ask her of the children buried, after a sweet medicine wrecked her

insides into order

Mahogany L. Browne, “Pelican.” Reprinted with the permission of the author.

  • Choice Words

    Edited by Annie Finch
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