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  • Writer's pictureAleathia Drehmer

Southern Tier Literary Life: Thoughts on America

Essay and Poem By Aleathia Drehmer

I was invited to send in a poem about America as we approached the celebration of our country’s independence, but I’m not feeling very patriotic. With the recent overturning of Roe vs. Wade, the tension in this country which was already at a low boil, just got hotter. For me the loss of ability to get an abortion is less about the act of terminating a pregnancy and more about what it means for women’s rights. We are losing the choice to do what we want with our bodies. This loss of choice could change the lives of women but also the children they are forced to raise despite their ability and circumstance.

The repercussions of this decision are going to increase the health risk to women, increase teen pregnancy, increase the amount of children in the foster care system, and increase the need for social assistance. I can’t speak for other women about the choice to have an abortion. Each woman comes to that choice with a double-edged sword of what they can handle in life and how their choice will be received by people who have no personal investment in the decision. Religion and morality is often attached to the termination of a pregnancy but sometimes it is for health reasons, or in cases where the mother will not be able to provide the child a life they deserve.

The overturning of Roe vs. Wade is a stumbling stone for other rights to be overturned in the areas of contraception, LGBTQIA+ rights, and gay marriage. People have lost their lives fighting for these rights, they continue to fight at great risk to themselves, but what can we do? Do we sit by and let women, people of color, and the LGBTQIA+ communities be stripped of what makes us human? Why are we not good enough for rights? Why are we not allowed to make choices that affect our bodies and our existence in the world?

I don’t think I’ve ever written a patriotic poem in my life. I’ve been on the Earth 49 years and I have watched this country boil over in civil unrest, go through wars, terrorist attacks, and the persecution of people who just want to be alive and heard. There are a lot more freedoms in America than some other countries, but there is also an underbelly of control that isn’t always evident. We are a country divided into those who are distracted by the media and those who see what is going on. I have never much considered myself an activist. Introverts find that hard to do, but as I age and as my rights and the rights of my child get stripped, I’ve started to find a voice I never knew existed.

Poets of the world have been talking about the injustices for a long time. We aren’t often listened to except by those who are already listening. My advice would be to start digging a bit deeper, read more poetry, look around at your communities and see the opportunities you have to make a difference no matter how small that might be. Stand up for people. Stand up for human rights. This is what it should mean to be American.

We Don’t Get To Write The Ending

We get pulled from the wreckage

full of dog’s teeth and returned letters.

The sender invisible and matriculated

into the paper. The holes in our arms

ooze venom and wickedness and words

you couldn’t feed a baby.

You are there watching laundry

turn cyclical with an even huff and thump.

I sit in the dark watching the lights

on the tree fade in and out suspiciously

to the beating of my heart.

I am afraid to turn the lights out;

you are afraid to stop

the fragrant clothes from spinning.

It’s here on the edges of reality

where we get bitten, sometimes maimed

in places no one can see.

So in all rights, we can say it never happened.

Denial is an easy shirt to wear;

truth’s a difficult word to swear.

In the end none of it matters.

It is all recorded

in the disappearing ink

of history.

About the Author

Aleathia Drehmer is a poet who lives in Corning. She contributed a series of essays and poems to Southern Tier Life in April 2022. Learn more about her at her website


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