after Tyehimba Jess

Stick it somewhere it’ll stay, said my dad                                                                       A good girl keeps the blood hidden, said my mom

             Maxi pad shoved through a door gone yellow                         a white wrapping that creases over time

                                                                 —I bend down into the sheath of myself

                                                                 pulsing some secret color between hips

                              that quickly outgrew a rosary’s width                       with scars that grow and stretch to bind the self

                        budding from silence and stolen glances                        under the weight of unknown eyes that burn

                                                                 deep within me. I have no hymn, no psalm

                                                                 to comfort womanhood’s cut in my flesh

                   My father tells me how many eggs I’ve got                         My mother does not tell me how to salt

                                   to shed before I dry up with fever                         the cotton wound gaping in my jockeys

                                                                 but all I want is more toilet paper

                                                                 to unlearn the smell of Summer’s Eve Fresh

                                  like some lily fruit decaying inside                        I bought from a friend I can’t remember

My dad urged me, Keep the rot quiet . . .                                                                      Scrape blood from your nails, she said, like flowers . . .

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