I will give you fair warning – this is not the happiest of poems. But it is beautiful. Also disturbing, but only because it is so full of truth.
The poet, May Swenson, is a lady-gay who just so happens to have died in the year I was born, and also to have spent the end of her life in a town five minutes away from where I grew up. I feel a strong connection to her, and I love this poem in spite of its dark theme.
Stop bleeding said the knife
I would if I could said the cut.
Stop bleeding you make me messy with the blood.
I’m sorry said the cut.
Stop or I will sink in farther said the knife.
Don’t said the cut.
The knife did not say it couldn’t help it but
it sank in farther.
If only you didn’t bleed said the knife I wouldn’t
have to do this.
I know said the cut I bleed too easily I hate
that I can’t help it I wish I were a knife like
you and didn’t have to bleed.
Well meanwhile stop bleeding will you said the knife.
Yes you are a mess and sinking in deeper said the cut I
will have to stop.
Have you stopped by now said the knife.
I’ve almost stopped I think.
Why must you bleed in the first place said the knife.
For the same reason maybe that you must do what you
must do said the cut.
I can’t stand bleeding said the knife and sank in farther.
I hate it too said the cut I know it isn’t you it’s
me you’re lucky to be a knife you ought to be glad about that.
Too many cuts around said the knife they’re
messy I don’t know how they stand themselves.
They don’t said the cut.
You’re bleeding again.
No I’ve stopped said the cut see you are coming out now the
blood is drying it will rub off you’ll be shiny again and clean.
If only cuts wouldn’t bleed so much said the knife coming
out a little.
But then knives might become dull said the cut.
Aren’t you still bleeding a little said the knife.
I hope not said the cut.
I feel you are just a little.
Maybe just a little but I can stop now.
I feel a little wetness still said the knife sinking in a
little but then coming out a little.
Just a little maybe just enough said the cut.
That’s enough now stop now do you feel better now said the knife.
I feel I have to bleed to feel I think said the cut.
I don’t I don’t have to feel said the knife drying now
I love this poem because it tells the story of an unhealthy relationship in such a tangible way. Emotional pain can be felt in the body; a blade entering skin is not far from the pulling in one’s chest during a break-up or some other loss. The poem presents the wounded and the wounder in a delicate dance, neither one understanding why she must do what it is she does. The knife must cut, but it doesn’t mean to cause pain, while the cut must “bleed to feel.” Neither of these are healthy ways of living, yet so often when in pain, people become either the knife or the cut.
I am a sucker for form, and I love how the spaces within the lines not only serve to create dramatic pauses in the conversation, but also create a trickle that weaves its way down the poem, simultaneously mimicking both a jagged cut and a drop of blood.
So what do you think? Just a little pathos to start your week.
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