Patricia Smith

The Blood Sonnets

1. Me, age 12

Sure that I was dying, that I’d died,
that the gush of iron smell and black
thick splash signaled all my sin gone wide,
I pried open the thin, wobbly back
of a record cabinet and crammed
underwear inside. My mother had told
me nothing about my body, damned
to swell, sprout hair, creak and bleed toward old,
so I hid the stiff, soiled Carters there
among the music, wedged wrong in all
that bladed jazz and blues I didn’t dare
dance to. Gangly child, I was still small,
but too plumped to rest in my mama's lap.
Stashing my music, I braced for her slap.

II. You and I, too long ago

Brash adulterous fools, you and I
clash in a rented bed, this tryst illconceived,
the longed-for coupling off by
days. I bleed so much it seems a kill
has taken place, my body grieving
its harbor of woman, but do we
slow, think, push apart, stop? No. Believing
this chaos fated, we’re slow to see
the sheets wide-streaked scarlet, the fat drops
peppering carpet, my thighs burned red,
until you deadpan, “Let’s call the cops.
Looks like murder. Someone must be dead.”
Spent in the midst of our vicious crime,
we phone other lives, lie about time.

III. Her, yesterday

The purplish clot fascinated you,
didn’t it? The way it woke you and
trembled in your jammies like a clue
you hadn’t asked for. You slid your hand
inside the cleft, wiggled fingers stained
with new me, grandma! We rose that night
and sistered for hours. Questions rained—
Where’s the egg?—and answers were your right
and my relief. I took final stock:
Age 11, size 10 feet, my height.
Oh God, my girl, my woman, the shock
of sweet you lurching forward just might
kill me. Let’s ignore the creeping sands.
Let’s laugh and clasp each other’s bloody hands.