Gargoyle 51
Cover by Patricia Storms
Published 9/7/2006

Twelve Days

Naomi Ayala


No amniotic whisper
would carry the news
of first blood or last.


She wept over me, a swollen belly
month in and out
until at the hospital
abuela took me from her
so she could breathe.
She never woke from crying.


A man tells me
I am the bearer of nations,
And I laugh
beside the campfire
trying to bear a different
while feeding the hungry,
aiding the ailing
with new languages.


Forced to wash my own blood
in a public sink
same breath I’m told
I’ll bleed many moons.
What do women do
who faint at the sight of this?
How do they learn
to be with their bodies?
We were buying my brother a raft.
I was allowed to swim only
this one time,
wet my hair this once.
Later, locked in my room.
¡El gallo cantó!
¡El gallo cantó!
The rooster has sung
for me whose blood comes,
this woman.


This is not a love poem
but I have loved her.
I was her blood
before I was half of everything.
And I loved her.


They came
bearing the gifts of their biology
finding mine a little too
a little
too red,
a little too dirty sometimes.
Are you marked?
Are you shifting?
Where is your body’s tattoo?


Others blessed the simple renewal
joined one bank to the other
with a bridge of wet stones.
Blood of my blood.
Blood of my people.


I watch her go from me,
my moon,
my gravity.


Tonight I wake fighting the sheets
as if bound,
while still alive,
in the wet cloths
that would preserve me.


Deep tracks in the Vermont snow.
I conjure crones,
ask this about my breasts,
this about my fevers,
the earth’s thunder rising up my feet.


The last of this blood
is the last of my mother in me.
And she will never be here
to sing.


Love lives outside my body,
love in root.
Water, fire
beyond the moon,
the icy boughs.


literally, “the rooster has sung;” a reference to an old Puerto Rican practice where mothers confined their daughters to a room for the duration of menarche. The practice began with the mother, or parents, announcing the events by shouting “the rooster has sung” to friends and relatives and town folk.