Oh how the blood stories continue. Here are two pieces that look at the fiction around menstruation, and the truths. My own poem “All the Protection You Need”, which quotes a litany of sanitary product packaging text, and I’ve re-posted right here beside today’s book review “New Book Busts Myths About Menstruation Spread by Public Health Groups” by Malak Gharib from NPR’s Goats and Soda. They’re perfect partner pieces: read both, then the book The Managed Body, by Chris Bobel. But first, my poem.
All the Protection You Need
A Found Poem: Aisle 7, Walgreens
We are protected from our cycle, from our flow,
from our syndromes, our pain, our discomfort,
our discharge, our blood and
from our surprises.
We are protected with dryness, with superior dryness,
with extra heavy absorbency and rapid absorption
that we can count on
for up to 12 hours.
We are protected in seconds, any time, on the go,
all days, all ways
and after sexual intercourse.
We are protected with rags, pads, napkins, shields,
liners, plugs, portables, tampons, wings, flexi-wings,
gentle glides, plastic applicators, recyclable applicators,
biodegradable and flushable products, and
with gentle elastic sides.
We are protected from our flows, from our light flows,
our lights days, our heavy flows, our heavy days,
night time flows, unexpected flows, and
from our minor discharge.
We are protected from our flows with ultras,
with regulars, with maxis, with thins, ultra longs,
long regulars, heavies, extra heavies, super heavies,
super heavy longs, overnights, end-to-end adhesives,
and where we need the most protection:
from side leakage.
We are protected from our symptoms, from our tender breasts,
from our bloating, from our aching, our cramping,
our “stronger than usual menstrual” cramping,
our mood changes and the emotional swings
all related to pre-menstrual syndrome.
We are protected from our symptoms.
Protected with medication that makes us dizzy,
cross-eyed, sleepy, unable to drive,
that doesn’t work well with alcohol, prescription drugs
or if we’re on other tranquilizers.
We are protected from smelling.
We are protected with nozzles, with easy angle flexible necks
that make insertion easier if we insert gently
— no more than 3 inches — don’t force the nozzle,
sit on a toilet, and we are protected
if we are careful
not to close
We are protected from the residue of contraceptive jellies
or creams, leftover vaginal medication, minor discharge,
mid-month discharge, major discharge, and again,
after sexual intercourse
We are protected from residue and discharge.
We are protected with deodorant, with hygiene, with sanitation,
odor elimination, with clean feelings, fresh feelings,
refreshed feelings, neutralized odor (not just covered up),
personal cleansing cloths, sanitary wipes, feminine wipes
and seven different clean fresh scents:
including vinegar and water.
We are protected from our blood.
We are protected from our blood with HOSPITAL size pads,
with quilted pads; with cotton, rayon, Polypropylene, polyester,
silk-like, dri-silk, fresh weave, and dri-weave pads,
pads with cotton-like top sheets, pads with cottony covers,
pads that are contoured for comfort,
pads that have fast absorbing pores,
pads with special rolled design and
pads that channel our moisture away.
We are protected from our bodies, from ourselves.
Walgreens, where the military of “clean” awaits us.