Truly Mortifying: Overwrought Teenage Anti-Choice Poetry

Okay, let’s back up and explain a little here. Earlier this week, the Sundance Channel debuted the original series “The Mortified Sessions,” in which celebrities share mementos from their past — nerdy rock lyrics, awkward photos, etc. It’s based on the popular and hilarious Mortified live show that has been staged across the country.

Anyway, we figured that we’d commemorate the new show by unearthing some of our most mortifying mementos. And it turns out that Em has a secret shameful past as a closed-minded, anti-choice teen zealot who chose bad poetry as her weapon.

We’d like to think that Em has since made amends for this brief, mortifying period of her life — after all, the two of us have toured the country for both NARAL and Planned Parenthood, performing our one-hour show to help spread the good word about reproductive rights. (The write-up in the local paper in Madison, WI, when we performed there was headlined “Abortion Blitz!” Er, hi mom.) We even organized a bus-load of Em & Lo readers to march on DC to fight for abortion rights.

So please, please, when you read the following poem — which takes as its inspiration the Munch painting and takes as its subject abortion — bear all that in mind. Also, Em was young, she was ignorant, and she’d had no decent sex ed to speak of. Planned Parenthood and NARAL — we heart you and everything you stand for. And Em is, well, mortified.

“The Scream” by Munch (circa 1990)

The face was contorted by an emotion
it was never created to control
As the mouth opened to release
the terror of a death before life
Freedom flooded in
choking the scream to silence.

And in the distance stood two figures on a bridge;
one from whom life began
and one who could save it.
But the bridge was struggling
to hold the weight of three
and so the one to drown would be
the one whose scream would be silent.

And I wonder why
they couldn’t build a bigger bridge
but she said it was her right
to cross alone
and his duty
to agree.

There were those who tried to stop her
for long enough to hear the scream
but she told them
if they couldn’t watch in daylight
she would wait
and the death would simply become
a dull stain
against the filth of night

and she closed her eyes
and he emptied her
and the scream was silent.


  1. HAW HAW!

    Naw, don’t feel bad. My teenage poetry is WAY worse. I knew I had no poetry in me, but tried to compose it anyway for a girl who liked artistic guys. The results were so spectacularly bad that I could barely re-read it myself, let alone show it to her.

    Also, a recent cleaning out of my kid-room revealed some journals from the First Gulf War era, when I was in 6th grade. It seems I was very nationalistic at the time. All my stories are about George Bush the First beating up Saddam Hussein.

  2. Poem actually has a lot of potential for being a badly written, teen angst diatribe against abortion. Don’t feel bad, Em! You do lose points for the emo phrase, “dull stain against the filth of night,” though. I think almost all of my own misguided teen angst poetry had that phrase, or something like it, in it. Along with “icy flames” and “silent screaming pain of deception”… Teens are messed up.

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