I’m afraid to put my hand to the surface. To dip my fingertips underneath.
I pull back, and there is blood. Like the moment your menses begins and your fingers raised in front of your nose shine back at you: red. A breathtaking, shocking sheen but with a shadowy depth to it that rolls down one knuckle to the next knuckle with a trail of metallic smelling sweetness. Its from inside me, but I’m not dying.
I remember watching one dew drop of blood blossom from between my labia, out from my vagina when I was twelve years old. My thighs opened on either side, neck craned down and over to peer at and inside myself. My thoughts were incongruous. Dissonance bubbled around between my ears because of the two things: I was bleeding; I wasn’t hurt. Why? Even now, the way my mother answered me, hugged me, used our landline cordless phone to bring the news of my first period to her sisters and mother, the details of that scenario are blurry at best. The bead of blood from inside me was the greatest mystery. Who am I? What is this body if it isn’t me?
Blood curdles, bunches, and leaks out of me like sap from a tree trunk. And poems the same way. A word that puddles at the base of my ballpoint. It feels like I’m bleeding, but I can’t find the wound on my body. Sound curls inside of me like a rushing wind before the lightning strikes. But all I reveal is a word on a piece of paper. If I open my mouth for that word to jump in, I will only find ashes.
The mysteries of blood and ink characterized my childhood. I knew that sexual desire pooled and pulsed in that place below my belly button. And sometimes I thought that it bled out of me, because I could never write it down. Too great a mystery. Too shameful. To want. To want. To want.
I never believed in auras, but I felt that words that went unwritten and the blood coiled in my low belly were signs of a woman who lived outside my skin. The boundaries of my body could not contain her.
I grew deeply afraid of myself.
I seconded the blame for this fear to a lack of will. A will that was stolen from me. I created the myths from the bones of grief that lived in my family.
My parents held their 3 month old daughter, out of breath, out of life, in the car on the way to the hospital. This was before me, and I came after the death. And two more of us followed. So there were four. And always one soul somewhere else, a sister soul. Was she an angel? Was she my guardian? Was she a sexless pure being meant to become one with God? She made my mother and father very sad. A sadness that was so foreign to me it could have been the deepest treacherous parts of the ocean where you can’t breathe because you aren’t a whale. Or maybe whales can’t even breathe down there? Or it could have been the parts of the galaxies that even my teachers didn’t know how to describe. Dark matter and the other side of a black hole. That mystery felt like a betrayal. So I picked up pieces and furrowed my eyebrows and said,
“I can’t become this thing because you were supposed to be this thing. And your destiny was stolen, so you are haunting me and stealing mine. You are in every place before I discover it, telling me how slow I was to find it. You know why I fear confusion, and you hide yourself behind the victory of my self-destruction.” Self-interruption.
Years and years of overabundant mystery and blame have pooled in my consciousness. Words pulled farther and farther away from my humanness, became less relevant and more tightly wound. I have become more afraid to write. To let the words escape. To dip my fingers into depths and craft stories and violences from the blood. I’m faced with a dilemma. A challenge to remember deeply, to slip beneath the surface and sink into that soft, sweet electrified oil. Will the light reach me there? Will I know how to find my way back? Should I return?
Copyright Jessica Austin 2017