"Do Not Watch The Handmaid's Tale, and Other Advice for Expectant Mothers," "The Crick in My Neck from the Weight on My Mind," and "A Rhyming Romp with Nietzsche"
Do Not Watch The Handmaid’s Tale, and Other Advice for Expectant Mothers
You may think you want to watch The Handmaid’s Tale
now that you’re so pregnant you can’t really do
but it’s incredibly important to remember
that you do not.
You may think watching an entire season
in one 48-hour sitting
is a good idea;
because enduring the wait for your child to be born
is a Sisyphean effort
and streaming eight hundred minutes of footage
helps to fill the hours.
But this is incorrect.
You may think about turning off the television
long around the time
they start burning handmaids;
you should probably go right ahead and do that
before you get to the part
where a pregnant woman is raped.
That part is bad for expectant mothers.
You may start to think about childbirth
as you watch Offred deliver a miniature human being
alone on the floor;
you may begin to suspect that vaginal birth
is a rather poor evolutionary design.
You may even start to panic
about this process that has killed women
ever since there were women to kill.
But this will in no way benefit your pregnancy;
cortisol is not good for babies.
You may begin to wonder
now that you’ve started yourself thinking
about life as a handmaid in Gilead;
you may not be able to stop imagining
a nation with forced birth.
If you find yourself spiraling with despair
about this lack of bodily autonomy
do not watch the news.
You may get scared about the future of our country
as you sit alone at home
sobbing over The Handmaid’s Tale;
because even though you’ve decided
to carry your child to term
that does not mean everyone should have to.
Criminalizing abortion is not good for women.
Expectant Mothers, you may be nervous
about all that is to come
given the state of the world
but your only job is to raise a child
who will make the world a better place than it was before.
So do not stop fighting
like Jane Roe fought
for the freedom to control your own body;
do not stop fighting
for the inalienable right
The Crick in My Neck from the Weight on My Mind
2600 people have been shot in Philadelphia since the beginning of 2022. 1
This community hemorrhages blood every color and culture of the rainbow; the rate of poverty in my fair city is twice the national average. Students in their classrooms are targets for tragedy, greed and ambition manifesting as bullets in the chamber of the next school shooter’s gun.
Capitalism was born of the plantation;
but there is no such thing as a perpetual motion machine. The apparatus churns and the mechanisms chafe and the system will eventually chew up my children to bits, a laissez-faire attempt by the moneyed few to keep us all in chains.
My insufficient neurotransmitters,
conspiring to harm my body and punish my brain, trick me into believing I have no intrinsic worth; an erroneous conviction that those I love the most would be better off were I gone. The genetic lottery operates with impunity, the innocence of untainted alleles mattering not in the slightest, not at all, and mental illness will always hang over my daughter and over my son, an omnipresent Damoclean sword, with nothing at all to do but wait – and hope.
The planet is melting.
We will soon deplete our resources, those painfully, painfully finite resources, and it is the have-nots, as always, who will feel it the most; but with the world we are handing off to my offspring’s future grandchildren, it is only a matter of time before Earth flicks us off Her surface like a particularly annoying bug.
My second-born child,
the one with the uterus, has lost the autonomy of her body, has lost the autonomy of choice; I must teach her to protect it. My first-born child, the one on the Spectrum, may always need me to guide him in this world; I must also somehow live forever.
And I’m trying to quit drinking
and I’m trying to lose this weight
and I’m trying to grow as a person
and I’m trying to atone for mistakes;
but I’m getting awfully tired
of lugging this all in-kind
so forgive me for whining about the crick in my neck
from all the weight on my mind.
A Rhyming Romp with Nietzsche
Why, hello, my friends! What a pleasant sight!
I was not expecting a visit tonight!
We’re just sittin’ here thinkin’ about the verb “to be.”
It’s a night of existentialism for the cats and me.
We’ve got Fritz, as always, to guide the way
for our philosophical jaunt today
and to remind us all, though it is grim,
that God is dead and we have killed him.
So butts down, hands in, buckle up and wait;
life affirmation is never too late.
We have all night to attempt to discern
if Nietzsche was serious about the Eternal Return.
It all starts with the Church and its glum naysaying
about our desire to fuck when we should be praying.
To be human is power, our pal Nietzsche would say,
and to follow religion is to give that away.
But you’re wrong if you think he was just a denialist
because Nietzsche was actually never a nihilist.
He swore we should whine and surrender no longer
because what doesn’t kill us only makes us stronger.
Our moments of happiness, of jubilance and joy,
the orgasms and coffee and family we annoy,
none of them, can you dig it, would ever be seen
if not for the moments that happens between
So from the depths of darkness we affirm all the shit
that got us to where we can appreciate it.
Because life is redeemed every single time
we experience the ecstasy of the holy sublime.
Of course I’m not ignorant of the rumor that swirls
that he hated Wagner and Jews and the girls
But that’s all a lie and we blame his little sister
for warping his work for her Third-Reich mister.
So now the hour is growing late,
and we’ve wrapped up the entire debate.
Poor Nietzsche died broke, stark raving and mad
but we can’t understate the sheer impact he had.
He says there is value in what we choose to embrace
and in the human nature religion tends to erase
So let’s think of Dionysius as we build and evoke
the Superman of which Zarathustra spoke.
Because life is rich with meaning
if we embrace all of the pain
and realize that to truly live
we must yearn for it again.
- 1. As of March 30, 2023
Shannon Frost Greenstein (she/her) resides in Philadelphia with her children and soulmate. She is the author of These Are a Few of My Least Favorite Things, a full-length book of poetry available from Really Serious Literature, and Pray for Us Sinners, a short story collection with Alien Buddha Press. Shannon is a former Ph.D. candidate in Continental Philosophy and a multi-time Pushcart Prize nominee. Her work has appeared in McSweeney's Internet Tendency, Pithead Chapel, Bending Genres, and elsewhere. Follow Shannon at shannonfrostgreenstein.com or on Twitter at @ShannonFrostGre. She recommends the Philadelphia Bail Fund.