Gardasil

by Audrey El-Osta

I hope your daughter can forgive you,
for letting her in all her perfection,
be so vulnerable to the most malicious,
unkind plagues to befoul humanity
simply because of your ignorance.

I hope your daughter can forgive you
when she returns the permission slip to school
expressly saying “No,
you won’t get my daughter, you won’t
make her complicit in your pharmaceutical
conspiracy.” Her teacher will look at her,
concerned and horrified on behalf of this child
for whom she is, in effect, a temporary mother
by day. Her friends will ask her
“why aren’t you getting vaccinatated?”
She answers because mum said so.

I hope your daughter can forgive you
as she sits in her doctors office,
not even thirty, nervous, barely breathing,
waiting for an answer to a question
no innocent should have to ask.

I hope your daughter can forgive you,
lying on the operating table.
“Count down from 10 for me baby,
we’ll take care of you.”
Cervix, uterus, ovaries, breasts, lungs, brain.
These things travel, my friend,
and I hope she can forgive you,
as the scalpel descends.

I hope your daughter can forgive you
on her second round of chemo.
Her head in the toilet and her hair on the floor,
purging her soul of your memory.
Her protector, her guardian who
knowingly failed her.

I hope your daughter can forgive you
when she decides to stop fighting.
When it’s too much: all that’s left is to enjoy her precious time,
when the morphine hardly makes it bearable
and her friends gather to say goodbye
everyday, for months on end –
I hope your daughter can forgive you.

I hope your daughter can forgive you
as her new family packs up a life that was over
when you made your decision years ago
to spare her the false-proven horror of an immunisation
that could save her life.

I hope your baby can forgive you,
because I won’t.

Audrey El-Osta is a Melbourne based writer, studying Linguistics and Psychology at Monash University. A collector of cookbooks, listener of audiobooks and reader of poetry, she lives with four cats and three humans that don’t quite measure up. Her work explores themes of femininity, sexuality and womanhood, mental illness, comedy and identity.

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