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The Ghost of the Female Body

(This is an excerpt from my memoir, The Sea Once Swallowed Me).

The earth wakes stark with white light, the air tastes of iron.

As I change my pad, I spot the ground with two drops of blood. A woman’s body is the origin of the symbolic, I think, as I watch the bright red spots blacken the dirt. Our blood the origin of the thought: this must mean something.

I imagine the first man who saw a woman bleed. She is dying! But the bleeding stops, she lives another month and repeats. We bleed and survive. Can a man be anything but terrified? Then he would have made the link between bleeding and fertility. He must have gasped: monthly, she makes a sacrifice. She bleeds so that we might have life. First the purge of the uterine walls, flushed by rivers of blood. Then the re-thickening of the uterus, the birthing and deathing that proceeds from its mouth. Both genesis and apocalypse written on a woman’s body.

But we can’t speak of this monthly sacrifice. Not comfortably, at least. And what can’t be spoken must be performed: the return of the repressed.

For thousands of years, doctors all over the world leeched blood and slit veins for almost every medical ailment. We moderns find it shocking that something so irrational, useless, and even dangerous could be practiced for so long and so universally.

But were humans ever meant to be rational? Rationality is possible only for separate minds which pursue objective facts, and both separation and objectivity are myths. No, individuals are neurons in The Massive Mind (earth, cultures, beliefs, bodies); our societies are synapses. We cannot be rational, but only connected. Only aware of our roles, and perhaps even conscious of the whole.

We are conscious of nearly nothing. So we slit, leeched, and bled while the ghost of the woman’s body hovered in the corner of history, laughing. We’d do anything to avert our eyes from the taboo of the woman’s own blood-letting body, so we soaked the earth in false menstruation. We took knives to the throats of animals, milking fertility from sacrificial blood. We blackened the soil of nations saying this blood will birth new nations and fertilize old mythologies.

Today, we blanch at the barbarism of the Aztec religion. But the god of democracy roams the earth, offering its human sacrifices to a ravenous god of “freedom.” If it’s freedom we’re feeding, then why does it shape-shift in each war? Maybe the blood of foreigners is the price of maintaining ignorance at home. Ignorance of the repressed, the oppressed, and the ignored.

I swirl my finger over the ground, mixing the blood with the dirt.

Evil is only blindness. Sin is un-sighting.

Oppression is rarely seen, and the unseen may wander the earth, devouring freely. We refuse to look up, we refuse to look in, we refuse to look from side to side.

So, I will press this bloodied earth to your forehead. I will anoint your eyes in order to re-sight.

Now do you see the people moving like a sea of trees? Do you see how a woman is the origin of the whole and holy?

We objectify and ignore so we don’t have to worship her. Otherwise, we’d have to sit in the dirt and hum all day:

The woman giveth and the woman taketh away. Blessed be the name of the woman.

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