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