by Kara Jackson

cramps feel like tiny soldiers rupturing your belly in the walls of your womanhood every punch makes your knees curl into the springs of your night, the men were so wrong to your womb, after masking the floors with blood, you couldn’t walk stooped in the slope of the tile floor. only a Maxi could sweep you up from your place, and your mother’s short arms dragging you to bed. there would be no sleeping that night. you learn that bleeding doesn’t hurt when it drops from beneath you when the upperclassmen makes you bleed without asking, yanks the child from between your legs before you can holler, or moan, or take it back from him. he comes over again and this time he’ll laugh does it count if you bleed? he asks. you won’t laugh. you wouldn’t forget when the boys at school tell you to hurt yourself and you can never say no to those boys according to Molly, the blonde girl from gym class who only talks to your ex boyfriend. she tells you he told her that you were the only girl who wouldn’t tell, or scream, or the bathroom there is blood in the curve of the sink where the water from the faucet can’t swallow it down the drain, and you make sure your mother doesn’t find out, rubbing it out with Clorox the smell of blood and bleach is foul but so is suicide, and you learn to like blood and bleach better. every boy who ever looked you at for too long makes you bleed. the one with the football jersey, the white one, and even your best friend when he talks about his girlfriend. boys have only learned to snatch and paw until girls are bleeding beneath them. the only time they love you is when you bleed, and you kneel below their feet, beg them to cut you open because love and blood are the same at 15 where the boys look sort of like hyenas in Nike shoes and the girls all look knifed from the legs, and you are just spilling out.