The old buildings I love most are occupied by gargoyles and grotesques. Half-human, half-animal. The more terrifying, the better. I feel guarded by what terrifies others. The horned one at the top of Notre Dame is my favorite. Gemory. That hideous beast. He would tear the heart right out of a lecherous man’s chest and eat it for a midnight snack.
I once had a whole camera roll full of photos of the gargoyles who guarded me from the lecherous men in my path. The word gargoyle in French, “gargouille,” comes from the Latin word for throat. I like throaty words like the French like their cigarettes—how they can be swallowed in slow, long, drags.
My friend C used to imitate the faces of grotesques when we would walk the cobbled streets of France. She would hiss, all spittle and throaty, as if she were being strangled to her death. Do I scare you? she would ask, eyes bulging maniacally from their sockets. I would tell her yes. It was my first real glimpse into her haunted face unhinged.
What they don’t tell you before the hysterectomy
is that most of your want may wane
& that you may awake to feel that you’ve been de-sexed
& that a uterus pulled through a vagina is a sedated form of birth
& you may walk cautiously for quite some time afterwards
& your bladder may often betray you
& you may fear your own body and its lack of response to stimulation
& if you save one ovary so you aren’t forced into a violent menopause at the age of 37, you will still have a ghost period that can be spookier than a bloody one because you can’t see it, which may make you feel like you’re going crazy
& other women will say you’re so lucky to no longer bleed, but you will say that your one
remaining ovary has jumped into overdrive—so much so that you may feel the acceleration of age, which may make you feel like you’re turning 50 instead of 40
& you can’t take hormones to counter these side effects due to your predisposition to cancer so you will have to suffer through it, just like you suffered through the heavy, painful periods that prompted this surgery in the first place
& you may feel very disconnected from your body in ways that mimic a depression, but people will ask how you can possibly feel depressed when your life is so amazing, and you will question your decision when hot flashes and brain fog further dismantle you
& you will ask if there is ever any real relief from being a woman.
Nicole Tallman is the author of three collections: SOMETHING KINDRED, POEMS FOR THE PEOPLE, and FERSACE. She serves as the Poetry Ambassador for Miami-Dade County, Poetry and Interviews Editor for The Blue Mountain Review, and Associate Editor for South Florida Poetry Journal. Find her on Twitter and Instagram @natallman and at nicoletallman.com.
Photography by: Francesco Ungaro