Free Bleeding, 19 August 2016

Free Bleeding, 19 August 2016
By Sarah Leavens

for Omran Daqneesh


There is a little boy in an orange chair
across the world.

There is a cup filling with blood
inside me. 

We each touch our body and draw away
a slick red hand— 

mine tells me I’m living,
living living living as I should, 

but his says something else: broken, blasted, split
open and crimson and chaos. 

Half his face is blood.
His hair, dust. His left eye, crushed.


There is a little boy in a helmet
on a bike, paused at a Pittsburgh corner. 

I watch him, waiting for the bus, shedding
cells: his foot perched on the pedal, 

his American skull a summer leaf,
a peach, a soft kiss goodnight. 

A pregnant woman leans back
in the bus seat near mine; she grins 

and whispers, Do you see him kicking?
She taps her held belly, we all clamor to watch.

I see the movement and then the body
clearly, nestled inside her flesh—

little fetal spoon, clinging, curled,
safe under a thin membrane blanket.


Once home I sit and let myself
seep. My chance to gestate drains 

a bit more each month. I feel the empty space
contracting, the regular pain

of fertility. It is nothing
next to the hurt of this boy in the orange

ambulance chair in Aleppo, his face straight
at bodies pulled from buildings. He sees

the blood when he pulls his hand away
from his head, and his mouth 

does not change shape. He wipes, gently, both palms
on the cushion of the seat, returns them to rest

on his small knees gray with ash. His feet
are bare. Kick, kick. It is nothing, the pain,

compared to the horror of what we can bring
into this world. 


Sarah Leavens is a Lecturer in English at the University of Pittsburgh and a teaching artist with the Pittsburgh Center for the Arts. Her poetry has appeared in The Diverse Arts PressCorium, and So to Speak, among other places, and she is the poetry editor for Lime Hawk literary journal and a featured reader for Traveling MarLa’s African Literature Book Club. Leavens was the Out of the Forge Writer-in-Residence in Braddock, PA, after she received her MFA in poetry and nonfiction from Chatham University in 2012.