March Lit: "Birth Control" by Jenna Le

March 10, 2015

Image by Nottsexminer via Flickr

This month's poetry is by Jenna Le. The poem starts out whimsical enough, with a title that is nearly misleading, but the imagery turns grim by the end, making the reader wonder what the poem might really be about.

-- Karissa Chen, Fiction & Poetry Editor

Birth Control

Winging south, we met an Inuit fur trader
snowshoeing upcountry. Buoyed
to see a friendly face
in such desolate parts,
we hooted at him
as a form of greeting. He said,
“Messieurs Owls,
I’ve been meaning
to ask you something.
I’ve noticed that in years
when lemmings are scarce,
your speckle-breasted hausfraus
lay fewer eggs
than in years when lemmings
trickle across the tundra
in tens of thousands. Guess they don’t
want to hatch an owlet
whose fate is to die hungry.
Yet I never
see them fly into town
to beg the warty-lipped doctor there
for the pills and inserts
our women use
to limit the sizes of families. Pray,
what mode
of birth control do they use?” 

Honored sir, esteemed colleague
in the rodent business:
all you need
is to see, just one time,
one of your own hatchlings
shrunk by starvation,
his pale face
a sharp-angled mask,
his yellow eyes hard as white man’s coins,
stand hunched
over his brother’s bony corpse

and then start gnawing.



Jenna Le

Jenna Le is the author of Six Rivers (NYQ Books, 2011), which was a Small Press Distribution Poetry Bestseller. Her poetry, fiction, book criticism, and translations have appeared in AGNI Online, Barrow Street, Bellevue Literary Review, Massachusetts Review, and elsewhere. She lives in New York City.