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While Bleeding

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In a vintage boutique on Sullivan’s Quay,
I lift a winter coat with narrow bodice, neat lapels,
a fallen hem. It is far too expensive for me,
but the handwritten label

[1915]

brings it to my chest in armfuls of red.
In that year, someone drew a blade
through a bolt of fabric and stitched
this coat into being. I carry it
to the dressing room, slip my arms in.
Silk lining spills against my skin. I clasp the belt
and draw a slow breath as a cramp curls again,
where blood stirs and melts. In glass,
I am wrapped in the weight of old red:

red pinched into girl cheeks
and smeared from torn knees,
lipstick blotted on tissue,
bitten lips, a rough kiss,
all the red bled into pads and rags,
the weight of red, the wait for red, that we share.


In the mirror, the old coat blushes.
This pocket may once have sheltered something
precious — a necklace, a love letter, or
a fresh egg, feather-warm, its shell brittle
around a hidden inner glow, held loosely
so it couldn’t crack, couldn’t leak through seams,
so it couldn’t stain the dress within.
Source: Poetry (September 2015)

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This poem originally appeared in the September 2015 issue of Poetry magazine

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While Bleeding

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