“Rouse the Ruse and the Rush” is a long poetic sequence the author composed between 2020 and 2021, amidst various waves of COVID-19 outbreaks and the acceleration of “pro-life” efforts in the United States to restrict access to abortions at local levels and, ultimately, to overturn Roe v. Wade at a national level. The primary motif of this poem is the work of eighteenth-century Dutch still-life painter Rachel Ruysch. Through creatively rendering (or reworking) her images, alongside other sources, into lyric verse, the poet attempts to produce textual and sonic arrangements akin to Ruysch’s floral bouquets and referencing the (fetal) anatomical dioramas created by her father, Frederik Ruysch. The poet aims to mobilize the creative mode of linguistic inquiry, poetry, to build a new vocabulary for attending to and grieving both living and nonliving things without reinforcing modern valorizations of individual property and personhood, which have mired and limited recent debates on “bodily autonomy” and have allowed the phrase my body, my choice to be wielded by both the Left and the Right for very different purposes. The entirety of the sequence is published here, preceded by an exegetical essay.

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