Ritual

The tragedy of the afternoon
takes a turn for the worse
as the doctor enters the room.

With practised indifference,
he asks the bleeding woman to relax,
lie down softly on the table
and slowly spread her legs.

Women in flowing, white robes
throw a magic circle around her,
repeating again and again
the same prayer in her sleep:

May the little one find a place in heaven, they sang,
may her blood purge her sins of seven births.
Requiescant in pace. Amen.

Between her legs
a soft world trembles asleep,
but nimble fingers with conviction
don’t fail to find a way through.

And round and round
the women dance in her sleep,
their chanting rising —

May the little one find a place in heaven,
may her blood purge her sins of seven births.

The scalpel and scissors seep through
the wild, rhythmic incantations
and the soft skin of the evening
peeling away beneath her layers of sleep.

Through her legs they at last find
the unformed head,
or a part of it;

and with somewhat of a satisfactory smile,
the weapons of healing pull out the remainder
with a triumphant gesture!

A sinner, a fleshball, they sang
that would’ve blossomed into a woman,
to have fed and bled and grown heavy
on her father’s fortunes every day!

We stopped the danger, Hail Mary!
they sang,
and plucked the fruit
before her story began.

And round and round
the women dance in her sleep
drawing the circles of birth and death,

as the key slowly turns in the lock
and the footsteps carrying blood on the scalpel
leave the room.

Bathe the body with herbs and oil,
fumigate the wounds with incense sticks
and offer her as a sacrifice to the Gods
in atonement for sins of her seven births.

Round and round
all through the night
the women dance in her sleep.

May the little one find a place in heaven,
may her blood purge her sins of seven births.

Prayers wearing thin,
the woman softly groans
as she turns in her sleep.

Someone throws open the curtains
and lets the morning flood in.

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