Phlebotomy, as Told by the Blood

torrin a. greathouse

Consider these parallel histories: An emperor once declared war on the sea, sent his men drowning toward victory, & the Red Sea is named for the dead algae blooming within it. Can you tell me the difference? Maybe I too am red for all the slaughter carried within me, bastard child of water, lake swelled with rotting fish. What are you searching for when you drag me from you? Your vein a riverbed dredged of impossible children. Cells tested for the echo of your mother’s name. Once you were carried in your mother, her belly a lake. If the child before you & all those after sunk, are you the blood or the water? A boat or the first unfinished wolf, wrenching itself from the sea? A bridge too carries bodies & the water carries it. Does this make the bridge a mother or a child? Your mother once told you that if she gave you life she could take it back. Does this make her the bridge or its necklace of nooses? The river or its surface tension? Liquor is lighter than water & so is gasoline. Both burn. Both stained-glass a surface in the sun. Common language says we drown in liquor, perhaps this means your mother is a lake beneath another’s surface. What does that make me? A bridge or a glass? Your mother’s mother? Sometimes I worry that you’ve forgotten me. Dry & sober as a boat. Your survival a matter of surface tension. Maybe you believe that you are the bridge, suspended above all your dead. Don’t forget, everything erodes. A canyon is just a river’s bastard child. Bruise deep in the dirt. All of man’s inventions topple, each bridge’s arches bullied down to cliché rust. Another history blooming the water red.

More by torrin a. greathouse

Ekphrasis on My Rapist's Wedding Dress

still as a scar through the screen's glow : perhaps this is the origin
of my obsession with the color white : searching to name this shade
color like bitten bed sheets : color like a failed dove : or split lip 

when red has ceased howling its way to the surface : perhaps the color
of fog over the river bed that morning : or the color of concrete
that bleach & blood leave behind : it hangs around her like the word

faggot in the air of the locked bedroom : like drying hemorrhage suspended
between skin & cotton : sideways on the bathroom floor : it hangs around
her like a name : that once belonged only to me : & i think maybe

most of all i am jealous : for any metaphor i can put to it : the dress
is still beautiful : pale & soft & pure : & isn't this just like my poems?
dressing a violence in something pretty & telling it to dance?

Related Poems

from “Mount Carmel and the Blood of Parnassus”

Let us enter this again. In the context of this paragraph,
we are hurtling backward through space, toward a small
opening: I press my hand to your lip and you bite. You bite
my spine. Ben his jawline was stellar. Ben his curlicue.
His cellphone iPhone. His and everyone’s iPhone, in my hand,
on my lap, at the mezzanine. The opera is going full speed.
The soprano arrives to tell Falstaff, to tell him. I fall
from a great height onto a woman’s head. It splits and I
become the split, standing later for a portrait. The hero
of the town walks alone at night, carrying in his eye a single
feather. He wears this feather in his eye as a kind of penance.
For his bravery many men will die for many years to come

from "feeld"

         bieng tran is a unique kinde off organe / i am speeching 

         materialie / i am speeching abot hereditie / a tran 

         entres thru the hole / the hole glomes inn the linden / a 

         tran entres eather lik a mothe / wile tran preceds esense
 
         / her forme is contingent on the feeld / the maner sits 

         cis with inn a feeld / wee speeche inn 2 the eather / wile
 
         the mothe bloomes / the mothe bloomes inn the yuca

My Mother Would Be a Falconress

My mother would be a falconress,
And I, her gay falcon treading her wrist,
would fly to bring back
from the blue of the sky to her, bleeding, a prize, 
where I dream in my little hood with many bells 
jangling when I'd turn my head.

My mother would be a falconress, 
and she sends me as far as her will goes. 
She lets me ride to the end of her curb 
where I fall back in anguish.
I dread that she will cast me away, 
for I fall, I mis-take, I fail in her mission.

She would bring down the little birds. 
And I would bring down the little birds. 
When will she let me bring down the little birds, 
pierced from their flight with their necks broken, 
their heads like flowers limp from the stem?

I tread my mother's wrist and would draw blood.
Behind the little hood my eyes are hooded.
I have gone back into my hooded silence,
talking to myself and dropping off to sleep.

For she has muffled my dreams in the hood she has made me, 
sewn round with bells, jangling when I move.
She rides with her little falcon upon her wrist. 
She uses a barb that brings me to cower. 
She sends me abroad to try my wings 
and I come back to her. I would bring down 
the little birds to her
I may not tear into, I must bring back perfectly.

I tear at her wrist with my beak to draw blood, 
and her eye holds me, anguisht, terrifying. 
She draws a limit to my flight.
Never beyond my sight, she says.
She trains me to fetch and to limit myself in fetching.
She rewards me with meat for my dinner.
But I must never eat what she sends me to bring her.

Yet it would have been beautiful, if she would have carried me, 
always, in a little hood with the bells ringing,
at her wrist, and her riding 
to the great falcon hunt, and me
flying up to the curb of my heart from her heart 
to bring down the skylark from the blue to her feet, 
straining, and then released for the flight.

My mother would be a falconress, 
and I her gerfalcon raised at her will, 
from her wrist sent flying, as if I were her own 
pride, as if her pride
knew no limits, as if her mind 
sought in me flight beyond the horizon.

Ah, but high, high in the air I flew. 
And far, far beyond the curb of her will, 
were the blue hills where the falcons nest. 
And then I saw west to the dying sun--
it seemd my human soul went down in flames.

I tore at her wrist, at the hold she had for me,
until the blood ran hot and I heard her cry out,
far, far beyond the curb of her will

to horizons of stars beyond the ringing hills of the world where
   the falcons nest
I saw, and I tore at her wrist with my savage beak.
I flew, as if sight flew from the anguish in her eye beyond her sight,
sent from my striking loose, from the cruel strike at her wrist,
striking out from the blood to be free of her.

My mother would be a falconress,
and even now, years after this,
when the wounds I left her had surely heald,
and the woman is dead,
her fierce eyes closed, and if her heart 
were broken, it is stilld

I would be a falcon and go free.
I tread her wrist and wear the hood,
talking to myself, and would draw blood.