Blood Memory

CW: sexual assault, rape. Photography by Claudia Soraya.

 

I could not open like a flower

I clenched, unblooming

I writhed

 

A kind relic from days of glass thermometers

and mercury medicine

squeezes my hand, holds my wrist

the attending doctor bracing herself

on my inner thigh, her head between my legs

as she props me open with a speculum

 

I am opening

I try not to watch her hands working

instead studying the surgical lamp

beside the examination table

I trace the edge of the lamp

between waves that radiate

from in between my legs

and into my gut

 

I try to isolate the sensations of my lower body

I feel a wetness on my inner thighs and smell iron

 

I am bleeding

 

I can feel every centimeter I expand

I cannot open any further than this

the hollowness gaping

I am a cavern, a cavity, a wound

 

Suddenly I am aware of my internal organs

and feel disgusted at my exposure

At the intersection of my in and out

I am moving backward up the examination table

the doctor following me with her cold hands

 

Just imagine you are a flower unfolding in timelapse

 

My knees knock inward in protest

my body has not forgotten the cruelties of this pose

 

The doctor tries to slide the small plastic T into my cervix

while I shoot my hips to the ceiling

and arch my back in protest

I’m sorry, I promise I want to do this

I assure the medical staff

as they grow uncomfortable, impatient

 

I did not know this would feel like him

like all of them

 

I am fourteen

shivering in the tent when he tries to take me

unzips my sleeping bag and crawls in

he smells like sour beer, foul intentions

he grabs me, whispers in my ear

words that will never leave me

my legs shake shut

and I watch the snow fall on dead leaves

through the slits of fabric

 

I am seventeen and wine-drunk

there is a tapestry before his bed

some dark pastoral scene

I taste the gold chain around his neck

as it falls into my mouth

while he pries my legs

I opened, and slept while he took me

 

I am nineteen and pressed against the painted cinderblock

in the room across from my dormitory

I am so close to safety

but his hands are clasped around my throat

and I force out a scream between his fingers

I will not open

 

Now I am twenty-five

and I am straining against my past and present

folding and unfolding with each wave

with each push deeper into me

I can feel the cold of her instruments behind my belly button

in my teeth, in my eye sockets

my entire body is a knot

 

When the nurse lets go of my hand and the doctor stops

I don’t think we can finish this

the pressure in my womb like a burning hollow

and I know it is done

 

When I remove from the surgical gown

and slip into my cotton dress

I feel the same old shame

for every night I have ever lost

 

And for a moment

I am sorry for squeezing the nurse’s hand too tightly

digging in my nails

and for looking her dead in the eye as they worked

 

I wonder how many others’ faces

how many tragedies played through another’s iris

she has seen like this

 

And how these nightmares that live between our knees

after all these years

come to find us in examination rooms

 

Will ever they leave us

and when will we forget them?

 

That morning

I released them in my blood

a solemn rite

and left.

 

For more poetry by E, see Oh, New York and Who We Were There.

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