First Blood

by Patricia Ace


The aubergine streaks
Of my daughter’s first blood
Bubble up through the soap suds
Like an ending.

Two weeks a teenager
The balloons from her birthday
Still sagging softened
Puckered at the window
Now suddenly she’s a woman
Her eggs ripe as redcurrants
Her ovaries plump as the plums
Spilling their yellow harvest
On the late-summer lawn
Her breasts budding hard
As the small sharp apples in the yard
Her blood clear as cranberries.

A chill in the air ushers Autumn
As we freewheel on bikes through the wood.
The undergrowth lashes our ankles
The bite of nettles, the jag of brambles
Pricking our skin as we pass.

She comes to me after the bike ride
A flush of colour on her cheekbones
I’m slumped on the sofa like dough
I buckle as if she’s punched me,
Winded, the air kneaded out of me.

Then I’m back in the hot August dawn
Of the night she was born
Squeezing my mother’s hand
So hard she had to take her rings off
Before they sliced the tender place
Between her fingers.
Seeing her shrink from my terrified gaze
As I gulped from the mask, drowning.
And when it was done, my mother staring
Down at the little pink bundle and saying
One day she’ll have to go through all this.

Here she stands, my girl, so tall
And proud I can hardly believe I bore her.
I want to throw my arms around her,
To bake her a cake with candles.

But I slope off to the bedroom instead
Rummage in the cupboard for the towels
I’d secretly stashed for this day.
Slip her underwear into the sink,
Watch the water blush
As the rosewood stain lifts.

The aubergine streaks
Of my daughter’s first blood
Bubble up to the surface
A beginning.

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