Blackbirdan online journal of literature and the artsFall 2017  Vol. 16 No. 2
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When the blood calls, you must answer. It sings in your veins, fills the drums of your ears, entwines itself in the coiffure of your curls, and always it surges, surges, surges. The blood calls your daughter’s name. The blood sings of the bier that was meant to be her bower, chanting of a wedding usurped by winds.

Listen to the blood—hear how it sounds just like a man demanding your presence. It calls you to the courtyard, just in time to witness his return. He alights, dangling a woman with bruise-kissed lips. Bringing home neither daughter nor apology, he hasn’t come empty-handed—he has brought disgrace.

When he sets her down, her legs give way, solid ground unfamiliar after so long at sea. She clings tighter than his arm cuff and blinks at the gathering crowd. Her unbelievable beauty, a blinding, consecrated thing—it makes you want to kneel, make an offering. You lower your eyes and catch sight of the leather tongs which bind her wrists. She is just as trapped as you.

At your signal, the carpet rolls out before him—a lolling, lying tongue. He crosses it boldly amid the deafening cheer. Tonight he’ll receive his hero’s welcome—what a grand night it will be! A night of feasting, of food and wine, of music and of storytelling. Such a night as to be remembered. The bards will long sing of this night’s deeds. But first, he must have a bath to wash away the weariness of travel and remove the dust of foreign soil. No need to call for an attendant. It is your privilege to serve.

He wants to discuss all that’s come to pass. You urge him to save such talk for later. The night is young—there will be time for talk of battle and valor and deeds. Now you coax him to lie back in the tub and allow you to perform the ablutions which are his due.

You upend the water over his head.

When he asks if you have missed him, all you hear is bloodbloodblood. No peace can come of this, but when the blood calls, you must answer. The tub cannot hold it all—the blood, the body, the hubris, the slip and founder of the struggle, the stroke, the sacrifice. When the blood calls, you must answer. It pulses out from the body like a promise finally kept, it stains the snare—that net so fine and delicately spun, it spills like a libation, and always it surges, surges, surges.

History, mythology, legend—call it what you like—will be unkind. You will not be remembered as the beautiful sister, but the terrible one—both of you more trouble than either of you were worth. A day will come when you must pay for this. Yes, you see the way of it. You know which way the winds blow.  

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