The Drums of Men

Image by Krista Boniface

My throat is scorched from the burning sword that guards the gate.
I choke on blood and fire and bits of fruit.
I will go to my sister (who is also my mother), the one who refused to lie beneath you;
the one who lay with demons rather than beneath you.
Her children fly and shriek after flesh.
Their tongues burn words across my breast like a cow’s brand;

‘You will menstruate. Certain days you will be fertile. Drums will make you want to fuck.’

Those drums; the heavy palms against animal skin that wrench out cries from inside your flesh;
“Let us out! We are more than a dream – We are your blood! We will drip down your thighs into puddles to be read like tea leaves!”
I carry the weight of them like some blessed dowry that would leave me choking,
hanging from a door handle or the branches of some extinct tree.
I’ve too many souls crammed into this chalice of a body; not enough hip, thigh or flesh to contain them
but the drums of men are only louder now and they echo in the empty space of my hips
Do you know, men, of these souls? When you pinned me under you (as that first time in the garden) was your hatred of me a hatred of the low, strange singing from between my thighs? Did they promise you things?
Did they promise you a grand, victorious war for the wearing of furs to cover your shame?
The gates are closed to us now brother, husband; the taste of fruit only dry acid on my tongue, but the singing is low, still.
Your brothers tied you to your ship and filled their ears with wax but what of me?
What of this ocean ripping tides in my belly?
What of this wine that spills from me like some cursed harvest?
It was my own flesh plucked from that tree, Husband, but eat! Drink!
A toast, fine men!
A toast to Father Progress, and Brother Industry!
A toast to your brave cocks; hard and high above my own shame, though your bite followed after my own.
Raise your gold goblet and press it to my wounded side.
This is my body. It has been given up for you.
Take and eat, husband. Fill your cup!
May your wars be long and brutal as you like them best.
I am weak from loss of blood, my sister (mother) tends to me.
Your father cursed her to crawl along the ground,
limbless, but she is strong.
She gives me strange, scented dreams of canoes pulling me by an umbilical cord
into a wide, gaping mouth.
White stone teeth carved like the Erinyes; molars of fierce woman-gods. I will be shut in!

I will be shut in.

So tie a rope ‘round my ankle, you priests!
You priests who cringe at the sight of my stained thighs; I will be the one to take you to god!

An exorcism of enunciation!
Pronunciation (of various divinities).
Strategic manipulation (of my lips)
to navigate the passage of sound through my jaws as to free these raging souls as words
until I myself beat as a drum and need no longer breathe.
Need no longer chant these songs of women whose hair is coarse and thick enough to withstand the need of man
The need of man to fuck and destroy and plant flags
and make small mirrors of themselves who are made of their blood and thoughts and fists;
continuing what they are in the solid manufacturing of flesh.
I will not be your factory.
I will tear your rib from my side and plant it.
Call it the Tree of Labor Pains and forbid you to eat from it;
you and your priests.
You will sniff like dogs at its roots, recognizing the scent of your own bones.
They hang from its branches like a New Fruit.
On it I will dry my garments and the flesh of my dead,
pull milk from its trunk and fashion scriptures with its foliage.

You? You may wander the water on your ship or the land on your feet.
Take another wife. Name her Helpmate, plant your sons in her. As many as you can before I come to her.
Come to her as your first wife did to me and feed her your ribs, soaked in the milk of our tree,
and watch the blood come.
Women will always bleed.