By Molly Knox
Before I really knew what a womb was
I asked to be excused. rushed nervously down flights of stairs
bunched over in a stall. a rag-doll, digging fingers to my legs
searching only to find pyracantha burst in my belly. and here I am again
birds can eat those berries; but those berries would make us very sick
ringing back to motherly words of wisdom. how could something be so painful
and so bright, so clustered and strung together. a crowd of deadly baubles like rosy, red poison
garnishing hedges on the path to school.
I only mention them now
because I remember it just as red,
felt just as sharp
as a toxin in my gut that’s meant only for creatures
who fly. I imagine it
the same clotted texture when squeezed
I don’t mean to pry but was it just as strange for you?
Did you feel the sore and damp wince like I did?
staring at streams of blood soaking your tights, your skirt, your underwear
frowning at another ruined pair, secretly scrunched and dripping
Did you have a canny rota that began?
on what was best to wear to mute the embarrassment
Did you feel ashamed of the natural gnawing heaviness?
the tender twangy outbursts, inside and out
deciding when is best, overall, to stock up
on supplies, get great at adding how many left in your bag til the next
Biting down stares like the crunch of golden
delicious as I hoist my bag on my back
on yet another trip to the toilets.
In the morning, I am pinning my grease coated
hair back once again. Learning not to pop spots, and where warmth
and chocolate heals the most. Slowly getting used
to the rub, the rhythm, the crackle
and aim into the bin as it sputters through its trap. Spinning
into the dark with earthly pieces of me.
There is a kindness in how
I mopped and wiped the oozes from my thighs,
dug down to ache through the last sun-dropped moment of the day
in the swell of September’s bloody heat. I remember, despite it all,
being somewhat pleased.
Maybe I grinned at my uterus then.
And spoke to myself in a hush
Knowing then what a womb really was.
Illustration by Verity Laycock