Maya Marshall’s All the Blood Involved in Love (Haymarket Books) is a striking portrait of womanhood, family, and racial injustice in America. The poems wrestle with difficult truths and bear naked humanity; All the Blood Involved in Love asks readers what makes a family and what a family produces. Maya Marshall’s debut interrogates the current sociopolitical nature and its threat to reproductive rights, choice, and Blackness. These poems wrestle with the expectations that women, especially Black women, must carry as they walk through America. In a time in which legislation has eliminated a woman’s right to choose and objectified their bodies, Marshall writes in “Big Water,” that “terror cannot protect like anger does.” I appreciate and truly value the righteous anger experienced in this work. Marshall examines how much blood and violence exists between justice and family–of the violence anti-reproduction laws perpetuate; the poems are vigilant beacons of what has happened, what is happening, and what is coming for America.
Marshall’s, “An Abortion Ban,” first published in the Boston Review is among my favorites in the book; it paints a harrowing picture of what women, especially Black and brown women, will face as Roe v. Wade is overturned. She writes that an abortion ban “is a body snatcher/ is an ethnic cleansing” and I think how frustrating it is to be a human with a uterus—, how our bodies so easily become objectified by white legislators. The language in “An Abortion Ban” is unrestrained and unassuming.
Semen is an innocent bystander.
Penises are just boys being.
A pregnant black woman is a dead black woman.
A black woman who miscarries is a dead crow.
A state legislature is a vulture.
A choice is a liability.
The metaphors are haunting, but they are not written to discourage; rather, I read Marshall’s work and feel empowered. These metaphors, and really the Black woman that forged them, do what good poetry should–reminds and emboldens readers to continue this righteous fight for reproductive justice as well as racial justice.
In “To Deliver a Stillborn Safely” I hear remnants of what Marshall writes in “An Abortion Ban.” She returns to the idea that a woman’s body is a commodity in America; she writes “when I consider pregnancy, I think of American rot.” This is such a visceral analogy about stolen agency.
not the babies but the people cop-murdered in the streets and governments saving rapists’ fruit to spite the women bearing it.
It stinks of God and Mary.
Don’t you know He may enter
any vessel and raise flesh or fire?
Maybe it’s passé to be angry with God,
but fury is part and parcel of love.
This seems to reflect the blood in the relationship between Christian nationalism and the violent use of scripture in lawmaking. In this way, I almost read it as a cry of revenge against spiritual abuse or neglect—themes that are so present in this work.
Maya Marshall’s work is bone-breaking and such important, poignant poetry; she shares not merely a political message but a human message. All the Blood Involved in Love is a blood transfusion.