(a micro memoir moon cycle)
- When you get your period, says my dad at his
house across the drafty, finished attic, let me
know if you need to purchase Kotex or
- I stare at the floor, the southern sun shining
through a four-pane window. I am 12. I am
mortified. I have already been menstruating for
- Because I am so young, I learn to keep it a
secret. On the news, they say that girls begin
menstruating “early” due to excessive dairy
- Down the block, my best friend’s dad Randy
praises my ability to finish a whole glass of
milk. If only, I think later, I’d left it half-full.
- Ten wasn’t “early” for me or my mother or my
grandmother. Walshes start bleeding when we
hit double digits. Fourth grade is when I learn
- In 2020, I will have been menstruating for
twenty years. What will I have learned from
over two hundred periods? Menstruating isn’t
what makes me a woman.
- Anna says: I don’t like how my world revolves
around men. I am a woMAN, I MENstruate,
and now I’m going through MENopause. It
makes me MENtal.
- My mother fills the bottom drawer in the
bathroom with what she calls “period
products.” True to form, she supplies us with
every shape, size, and persuasion.
- My sister and I come from a single ovary, the
other side taken out surgically by a kind doctor,
second opinion, unnecessary to remove the
- I cruise down the only tube like a slide, the
beginning of my beginning as a fear-free
water-sports aficionado. Four years later, my
sister does the same.
- My best friend has endured chronic health
problems for years. These days, she heartily
celebrates her renewed red period as a sign of
gaining back her health.
- It’s a good way to tell how conservative your
friends are, she texts, when you post about
your period on social media and they can’t
- Praise three generations in a single body, the
grandmother carrying a fetus with its own
gametes. Praise the random survival of the
plush rush, the remaining shedding.
- Sex ed: everything seemed scientific except for
the moon, lunar cycles, lore until college. We’d
circulate a dogeared copy of Inga Muscio’s
CUNT: A Declaration of Independence.
- Even the “solutions” they presented were
binary: pads and tampons. I learned later that
some girls didn’t use tampons because it would
mean they were not “virgins.”
- The musician T.I. recently boasted in a viral
interview that he takes his teenage daughter to
the gynecologist every year to make sure she’s
still a “virgin.”
- New York legislators then introduced a bill to
ban “virginity tests.” I wonder what kind of
doctor, gloved hand, would conduct this “test”
in the first place.
- At 29, I hear Stacyann Chin read poetry about
Take Back the Night. Your vagina, every part
of your body is yours, she tells her young
- My first semester of college, I buy a Diva Cup
from the organic co-op in downtown Asheville.
Grinning, I take it back to campus on the bus.
- I show the small silicone cup to my roommate
and other friends in the dorm. Parents or
menstruators aged 30+ are supposed to buy a
- Thirty felt like a long way off, then. But my
cup remains half-full. No one wants an
irritated vagina! reads Diva’s website. I’ve
learned this is true.
- Our culture says men breathe sex like air, so
rejection is something I don’t understand at 18.
It’s weird for me, you know? he says. I do.
- I want to write about bodies for once without
the gaze of an imaginary man. Did I become a
writer to exist inside my own soft walls?
- At a porch party with a bunch of other lesbians,
a new friend shows us a dancer’s Instagram
photos. Dude, can you believe she’s a Gold
- My straight male cousin asks through
Facebook messenger whether identifying as a
Gold Star Lesbian is even a thing. Not really, I
say. I don’t think so.
- Student insurance won’t cover a Well Woman
exam or gynecologist. Insurance won’t pay for
a doctor to check up unless I can prove
something is awry already.
- Our cycles don’t sync like we thought they
would. In winter, we watch The Vagina
Monologues. We’ll spend a decade in periodic
conversations about the play’s flaws.
- What have I learned from 200 bright periods,
red spots marking time on the linen garment of
my life? My sentence leaks on, into the
- When you get your period, says my dad at his
Freesia McKee is author of the chapbook How Distant the City (Headmistress Press, 2018). Her words have appeared in Flyway, Bone Bouquet, So to Speak, Tinderbox Poetry Journal, Virga, Painted Bride Quarterly, CALYX, About Place Journal, South Dakota Review, New Mexico Review, and the Ms. Magazine Blog. Freesia is a staff book reviewer for South Florida Poetry Journal. Her reviews have also appeared in Tupelo Quarterly, Pleiades Book Review, Gulf Stream, and The Drunken Odyssey. Freesia was the winner of CutBank Literary Journal’s 2018 Patricia Goedicke Prize in Poetry, chosen by Sarah Vap. Find her online at freesiamckee.com or on Twitter at @freesiamckee.