Rites of Passage


At sixteen,
I keep my fingers crossed
the day I leave for school,
first morning pee
hidden in
a brown paper bag.

In 1968 it takes
a whole week for results,
no simple wait to see
to see if a plastic stick
changes color in the privacy
of my bathroom.

I spend those days in
a haze of magical thinking.
I know what the results will be.
I call the doctor
from the school phone booth.
The nurse says
“I have good news.”

Nobody tells me
my breasts will swell
and ache and leak
after the abortion.
Nobody tells me how
to find my way out
of the pit.
I just keep digging.


Five weeks after
the abortion,
held at knifepoint,
in an East Village apartment,
I realize how much
I still want to be alive.
It will take years
for the rape to register.
My fear of murder
makes the rape

I sit in the wreckage
of my life.
Some days terrorized.
Other days blind with guilt.
Most days living.
but in my body.

Judith Prest is a poet, photographer, mixed media artist and creativity coach. Her poems have been published in several literary journals and in seven anthologies. Her chapbook, After, was published by Finishing Line Press in May 2019. A retired school social worker, she currently works part-time running Recovery Writing and Expressive Art groups at New Choices Recovery center in Schenectady NY. She also gives workshops and leads retreats for Poetry, Expressive Arts, Creativity and Healing. She lives in Duanesburg, NY with her husband and three cats, also the home of her business, Spirit Wind Studio, LLC.

Artwork by Phyllis Green