{An Umbrella Special Feature}

Sally Allen McNall’s

chapbook, How to Behave at the Zoo and Other Lessons, was a winner of the State Street Press competition in 1997, and her first book manuscript, Rescue, won the Backwaters Press Prize in 1999.

Her 2010 book, Where Once, Editor’s Choice from Main Street Rag, consists mostly elegies for the natural world.

She is a member of the Squaw Valley Community of Writers.

—Back to Interiority Contents/Issue Links—

Trying to write a poem without the word blood in it

You know how comical it is when a film
plays backward?—I don’t think I’ve seen
blood returning to the body, how funny is
that, the wound closing? I’m not saying
it hasn’t been done; I haven’t seen it.

But if “the blood jet is poetry,” as Sylvia
famously said, then I have lost a lot to this
century, I am exhausted, I would like it back,
scooped, sopped up, suctioned from wherever it is,
and siphoned back in me, for future use.

The last time I gave my actual blood I nearly
fell over when I got up, and the ladies at the blood
bank worried about my blood pressure. I am so dizzied
every bloody morning when I get up and think about
writing again, trying not to write of blood.

I can compete without blood-doping, without
hope, of course—we have to, don’t we? Hearts
like fists, drudging away, our actual fists hands
held open, fingers lifted from the keys, rest, rest,
then the orderly succession of notes, words, heart’s blood.