Marva Zohar

Blood signals Hanging by her kneesfrom the bunk-bed ladder,T- shirt hiding most of her face,showing her belly, and tiny white breastsShe says- "So who's still avirgin?" They go around the roomanswering in creamy voices.My turn comes. I say:"I don't know." Wishingfor a miraculous accidentto move the conversationaway. The ladder detaching fromthe bunk-bed railing;a pad leaking, white pajama pantsstained. "What do you mean you don't know?""You mean you don't want tosay?" "It's okay if you are." I step outside. I don't know.Pick a flower, pluck it, ithappened, it happened not, ithappened. I figure I'll knowthe night I'll get married.If I bleed that will mean itdidn’t happen. If I don’tbleed it will mean that it did. I don't know yet that hymensare as mythical as fairies. That blood flows in mysteriesways. I still can’t rememberany of it. This is differentthan forgetting. Burnt film.Actively absent. It takesyears to retrieve. It takesfalling in love with Tom whois a carpenter.He works with drift woodhe finds walking and walkingon the beach where he and his fatherwere swimming too far to get helpwhen his father had a heart attackand drowned. Salt and winddo most of the sanding.He tells me, and gets into my veins.I let him spend the night. His masculinityso close. I wake up bleeding.Not between my legs. My wrists.I finally rememberI finally know. Blood meansthe opposite of what Iexpected. Inventory of your absence 1On the way from school to a redbrick building where my parents paid the rent but I never slept, there was a clinic. On the side walk by the clinic, the skin of their hands and lips bitten by the little sharp teeth of frost, devoted Christians stood holding up signs. On the signs there was an image of you, curled up like a cat taking a nap. A golden halo blossoming ever-golden, around your head. Even though I never stepped in that clinic, the bleeding letters of the word murder, written under your picture, soaked through the pad and left a stain on the sheets, and in the flesh of the mattress.2Because I became a doula at 17 and a midwife at 22 and because people like to assume, the question comes up often enough. How can I, without ever giving birth myself. Every time they ask I think of you, digging your way out of the womb of that girl, who was not me, but bears a striking resemblance to the woman I have become, like a dead man out of a tomb. The determination it took. And I think, they are right, I never did give birth, I gave nothing, not even a sound. Like the inconceivable way I conceived you, the work of others through a body I did not posses. My teeth bit my fist, and then it was over and I hid you from the grownups the way a child learns to hide a friend they would not understand, wouldn’t know how to talk to and he becomes an imaginary friend.3In public bathrooms, when I pull paper towels out of the box, I look for you, or look to see if you would fit there, and how the box opens, if I ever had to hide you again until the end of a school day.4As paper towels are replaced by hot air, I worry about what sort of existence you have been recycled into. 5With the light of a cellphone, and a few starts, I looked through a bucket filled with blood. Trying to piece the fetus together, to make sure the woman laying in the mud hut had completed her miscarriage. He was a lot smaller than you were when you came out of me, or maybe my hands just got bigger. He had the same expression as you, like someone about to be woken up from an astonishing dream. 6Most of the people still don't know you ever existed, and I too, don't know it most of the time. Not for sure. I sneezed in the library once, and no one blessed me. A few minutes went by and I was not sure if I had actually sneezed. A child came out of me once, in a bathroom stool in a middle school. No one said anything, and I wasn't sure.7For someone who hardly ever existed, you cast a vast shadow on the hills.8On rare occasions the brain, the heart and the womb all line up. In this total eclipse I can see my own shadow and know that you really happened. Then the planets move, and I wonder. Marva Zohar is a poet, homebirth-midwife and feminist activist. She has practiced midwifery in the U.S, in Uganda and in Israel. She is currently living in a village near Jerusalem and completing her MFA from Bar-Ilan University with a focus in poetry about gender based violence. She is the winner of the Andrea Moriah Memorial Prize in Poetry. Her poems and essays have appeared and are forthcoming in the Ilanot Review, Gag, Ynet, and Midwifery Today Magazine.