My mother says      women were made to bleed
and the whole thing      takes twenty minutes.
She says afterwards      they'll wrap me up like a butterfly
for forty nights      and I'll drink only camel's milk.
My mother says      tomorrow
I'll be a little bride      hands red with henna.
I'll be shining in white      and get to wear as much gold
as I want. She says afterwards      something will get killed
and the whole clan      will come to eat
only they won't      sit down
until I've been washed      in the Nile.
My mother says tomorrow      the blacksmith's wife
will cut away a part of me      I don't need. She says
it might hurt      if the blacksmith's wife
uses scissors instead of a knife.      My sister says at her khefad
the blacksmith's wife used glass      and then tied her shut
with acacia thorns      and horsehair and Mother
had to remind her to put      a match head in the wound
so the whole thing      wouldn't heal closed
and my sister      could still pee.
My aunt says up north      they use something called cautery
which means they make that place      burn like the sun.
My mother says I have nothing      to fear
because women like us      were made to bleed.
My mother says someday      I'll meet a man
who'll want me smooth and small.      She says we'll marry
and he'll take a dagger      and slit me open
like a letter addressed      just to him.
My mother says tomorrow I'll     be a little bride. She says
the whole thing takes     twenty minutes
and after forty days     I'll come out just like her
smooth and small     lips sealed.

--- Quan Barry
From American Poetry Now
Pitt Poetry Series Anthology

Ed Ochester, Editor
©2007 University of Pittsburgh Press
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