CM ( / East Pakistan (Bangladesh))

Blood & Honey

I began by loving women
& the love turned
to bitterness.

My mother, the bitter,
whose bitter lesson-
trust no one,
especially no male-
caused me to be naive
for too many years,
in mere rebellion
against that bitterness.

If she was Medea,
I would be Candide
& bleed in every sexual war,
& water my garden with menstrual blood
& grow the juiciest fruits.

(Like the woman
who watered her roses with blood
& won all the prizes,
though no one knew why.)

If she was Lady Macbeth,
I would be Don Quixote-
& never pass up a windmill
without a fight,
& never choose discretion
over valor.

My valor was often foolish.
I was rash
(though others called me brave).
My poems were red flags
To lure the bulls.
The picadors smelled blood
& jabbed my novels.

I had only begun
by loving women-
& ended by hating their deceit,
hating the hate
they feed their daughters,
hating the self-hate
they feed themselves,
hating the contempt
they feed their men,
as they claim weakness-
their secret strength.

For who can be crueler
than a woman
who is cruel
out of her impotence?
& who can be meaner
than a woman
who desires
the only room with a view?

Even in chess
she shouts:
'Off with their heads!'
& the poor king
walks one step forward,
one step back.

But I began
by loving women,
loving myself
despite my mother's lesson,
loving my ten fingers,
ten toes, my puckered navel,
my lips that are too thick
& my eyes the color of ink.

Because I believed in them,
I found gentle men.
Because I loved myself,
I was loved.
Because I had faith,
the unicorn licked my arm,
the rabbit nestled in my skirts,
the griffin slept
curled up at the bottom
of my bed.

Bitter women,
there is milk under this poem.
What you sow in blood
shall be harvested in honey.

by Erica Jong

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