Blood Promise by Sam Barbee

Blood Promise

          for the Afghan girls

Even bloodied, a fire burns.
Red waters constrain what can be cleansed.
Child-bride prayer between virgin breaths.
Morning of Motherhood grinds.
Married the fist, not a palm. Never
disappoint, or face the father’s first stone.

Cauterized intuition. To undo the Word,
to undo the syllables, causes the wound.
She aspired to be a shepherd girl.
Succumbs to what comes next. Exile pure,
beyond dowry scraps. A low wind
twines her dark tress, binds knowledge.

Claimed by her keeper and unholy goats—
bloodshot eyes flickered with gnats.

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Sam Barbee has a new collection, Uncommon Book of Prayer (Main Street Rag, 2021). His previous poetry collection, That Rain We Needed (Press 53, 2016), was a nominee for the Roanoke-Chowan Award as one of North Carolina’s best poetry collections of 2016. His poems have appeared recently Poetry South, Literary Yard, Asheville Poetry Review, and Adelaide Literary Magazine, among others; plus on-line journals American Diversity Report, Exquisite Pandemic, Verse Virtual, The Voices Project, and Medusa’s Kitchen. He was awarded an “Emerging Artist’s Grant” from the Winston-Salem Arts Council to publish his first collection, Changes of Venue (Mount Olive Press); has been a featured poet on the North Carolina Public Radio Station WFDD; received the 59th Poet Laureate Award from the North Carolina Poetry Society for his poem “The Blood Watch”; and is a Pushcart nominee.

Image credit: A photograph [by Steve McCurry] of Sharbat Gula, “Afghan Girl,” was featured on the front cover of the June 1985 issue of National Geographic Magazine.