Jennifer O'Grady: "At Westside Women's Pavilion" & "Rabbit"

Jennifer O’Grady is the author of White, which won the Mid-List Press First Series Award and was published by Mid-List Press in 1999. Her poetry has appeared widely, in such places as Harper’s, Poetry, The Yale Review, The Kenyon Review, Southwest ReviewThe Georgia ReviewThe Antioch Review and many other journals. Her poems have been anthologized and selected for Poetry Daily and The Writer’s Almanac with Garrison Keillor.
Cultural Weekly is proud to premiere these new poems by Jennifer O’Grady.

At Westside Women’s Pavilion

I remember a door, white door. Handprints on it.
This is not good news, she said.
Not the taxi ride, the conversation. Just the door.
I don’t see anything there, she said.
A waiting room, everyone young,
everyone almost a child and me
almost dead. Well, something
inside me dead. That much I knew.
We don’t do this in our office, she said
and handed me a shiny pink brochure,
one corner gone like a bite.
A paper gown, paper slippers.
I thought, How will I walk
without tearing them?
Sorry, she said. Sorry
she said. And smiled.
In the room a girl,
fourteen perhaps, looked at me.
Don’t worry, she said. It’s not bad.
They’re nice. I looked at her,
she looked at me, her pupils
lit by the filthy fluorescent
hanging like a casket from the dropped ceiling
covered in dull white fire-retardant
sound-reduction tiles.
At least we know it can happen, she said,
It’s conceivable. No pun intended.
Next, they said and she went,
sucking a lollipop.
See you in another six weeks, she said
as she closed the door.
Next, they said. Next, they said.


There is something
not quite right
about this, the container
where he eats, sleeps, defecates, lies
with ruinous abandon
or in a dull stupor,
unable to tell us
which, if either;
amid wisps of hay, the now
flowerless broccoli, stems
untouched, all we had
today in the fridge;
nibbling the pellets
of who knows what
we give him, chewing
the plastic bars
in periodic frustration
or lusty enjoyment,
long ungainly feet
stretched out behind him
not unlike the keychain
I had as a child,
good luck charm, piece
of some unlucky being
I carried like a wounded
directionless compass,
exploring the sensation
of owning bone and fur
as we do now, owning
up to it at least, buying
his food, his cage, toys
(mostly unused), treats, him—
and where do we go
from here, where does it
lead us, such captivity,
if not to the outer reaches
of ourselves
where distance
or ambiguity
whisper that he is
much better off,
he is safe, as we watch
the moist protruding eyes
watch us: strange creatures
doing everything
and nothing at all.

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