So, Dominique Christina’s amazing spoken word piece, “The Period Poem” has been (rightfully) storming through cyberspace and has inspired some of my friends to share their own poems and stories related to their experiences with menstruation. I wrote this piece last year for an event promoting healthy menstrual awareness that I was asked to perform at. I wasn’t sure it was something I wanted to share with a lot of people because I felt like the poem was pretty rough and wasn’t very fancy…but after hearing my Blood Brethren share, I realized that I too wanted to tell my story. It is not elegant (menstruation rarely is, amirite?!) and it is not going to encourage anyone to run with the wolves, but hey, it’s my little poem, and she’s not so bad once you get to know her.
We became acquainted when I was eleven years old.
For a few years, I had vaguely known that you would come around
After my body laid an egg…shot out an egg…something with an egg…
And then it would zip around inside me like the silver sphere in a pinball machine;
Clanging against tubes and womb walls,
Setting off buzzers, flashing lights, and mechanical chirping
Until it fell out
And my uterus would weep tears of blood that sounded akin to a slot machine paying out quarters.
It would have been helpful if someone had told me that blood isn’t always red
Because as I sat on the toilet in my best friend’s bathroom after school,
I just so happened to catch a glimpse of my underwear
And I was horrified to see a smear of brown
Against the formerly pristine white.
Naturally, I thought what any eleven year old would:
FECAL INCONTINENCE (!!!)
I was shitting myself without even knowing it.
Once a month, for five months,
I would discover that my avoidance of fibrous foods
And my militant exercise routine of clenching my anus one hundred times a day
Would fail miserably
As streaks of brown appeared in my panties.
Remembering how my mother had reacted when I was five years old
And she had found blood in my pants after I had been climbing trees all day;
How she accused me of committing acts that I didn’t even understand the meaning of,
I decided the best course of action
Was to keep my humiliation private.
I wadded up my underwear and threw it in my closet:
Day after day, for five days,
Month after month, for five months.
One day, after a fight with my father, my mother decided to clean my room.
(“rage cleaning” my sister and I called it)
Somewhere in between reading my diary and throwing out my “My Little Pony” collection,
She discovered 25 pairs of stained underwear in the far corner of my closet.
When I came home from school that day,
She was so furious that I nearly pooped myself, even though it wasn’t “that time of the month”.
“How long have you been getting your period? Why the hell didn’t you tell me?” she yelled.
“I…I thought I was pooping myself,” I whispered tearfully.
“That’s blood, you moron!” she exclaimed.
“But…but it’s brown!” I responded with the most agonizing shame.
“Blood can be brown! It doesn’t have to be red! It’s not like cutting your arm!”
“I guess we’re going to have to go to the drugstore tonight and get you some crap.”
I went to walk away and I think she realized that she should say something supportive,
So she gave my shoulder a punch and said, “Way to go. Proud of you.”
We didn’t start off on the best footing, Menstrual Cycle.
You seemed to be cranking out eggs faster than a factory-farm hen,
Because during Grade Six, I would get my period every other week.
It wasn’t long until those small streaks of brown
Turned into giant puddles of red that seemed to go everywhere but on my pad;
Seeping through all my clothes and a few times, leaving blood stains on chairs.
I don’t remember the first time that I got cramps,
But what followed were years and years of a special kind of hell:
Pain that literally caused me to grit my teeth and scream, along with vomiting, thigh pain, and diarrhea.
Every time I got my period, I missed two days of school because I would be crawling around on my bed
In the kind of misery that made me fantasizing about performing my own hysterectomy with a grapefruit spoon.
It took five years for me to convince my doctor that my menstrual pain was legitimate.
After that, came a decade of various birth control pills, antibiotics, narcotics…
Ultrasounds, x-rays, dye tests, colonoscopies, cervical scrapings…
Which led to two laser surgeries for endometriosis…
Which finally led to two rounds of monthly injections of hormones
To keep you quiet, to keep you nice and sleepy, to trick you into thinking that I was a sixty year old womyn.
I’m not going to lie, Menstrual Cycle: for a long time, I thought you were a jerk.
But, we have aged well together, you and I.
We have an understanding with each other,
And we are always working to communicate our needs;
To listen to what each other is saying.
Actually…no. That’s not true at all.
I’ve simply learned not to argue with you,
And to try to honour you as the warrior queen you are.
I offer your uterine death grips infusions of nettle, red clover, and red raspberry.
I soothe your acne with willow bark.
I feed your chocolate cravings.
I even spend exorbitant amounts of money on batteries for vibrators,
Just so you can get through those two weeks of perpetual sexual arousal each month
Before I need to lavish you with cloth pads and ginger compresses.
When you demand attention through tantrums, I make time for you –
I crawl into bed or into the tub or into the whiskey bottle.
I’ve learned to appreciate you, Menstrual Cycle.
Living with you is exciting!
It’s a white-knuckled roller coaster ride
Throughout the calendar:
“I feel great! La di da!”
“OMG! I’m so horny! I have to get laid right now! Somebody fuck me!”
“I’m so sad…”
“I hate you! I hate everyone! I hate everything!”
“I better not get my period right now or else I’m going to be so pissed!”
“Umm…Period…where are you? You can come any time now. I promise I will never, ever get mad at you again. C’mon, please. Pretty please? I won’t even complain about cramps this month.”
“Oh. Great. I bled all over my sheets.”
“FUCK! I HATE CRAMPS!”
“Okay, okay, we got this. Three more days. Okay, five more days. We’re done! Oh, no, we’re not. Sigh. Three more days.”
“Hurray! I feel great! La di da!”
Now, I teach other people about their menstrual cycles,
And I try to teach them the things that I wish someone would have told me:
That our wombs answer the call of the moon and tides;
That our bodies contain the power to create and destroy;
That our bloody flow tells the stories of both our ancestors and our descendants.
I remind them that this dance will not last forever,
And one day they will blink and realize that they are crones
Finding their connection to the Universe in different ways.
I like to tell them that blood – whether it is brown or red – is not to be feared.
It is a sacred mystery that marks the passage of time.
We can choose to squat over the earth and give our bleeding back to it.
We can drag fingers and paintbrushes through menses and lochia;
Anointing runes, wands, canvas, and paper.
Menstrual blood; birthing blood;
Are bloods that are shed without typically causing death.
Some people say not to trust anything that bleeds for seven days and doesn’t die…
I say, “Fall on your knees and worship this miracle!”
Menstrual Cycle, I thank you for your lessons:
For the bitter, and for the sweet
You’ve shown me who I am and who I can be…
How can I be anything but grateful?
This work, “Ode To My Menstrual Cycle” by Beth Murch, is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.