I am walking to 7-Eleven a little after 4 a.m. in a city I don’t know.
I googled crime statistics for this neighborhood.
There was an assault more than a few blocks over more than a few months ago, and the only bad Yelp reviews are angry because Portland needs to stay indie and weird: This 7-11 has been spiraling this neighborhood downward into the bowels of hell.
I’m bleeding and about through the handful of regular tampons I tossed in the suitcase—just in case.
I’m staying in a guest house, no lock on my door, communal bathroom, trash bins with open tops and instructions for what goes where.
I’m tired, but don’t want to stain these underwear.
No solution for the impending blood—wet-crotched but clean hanging off the bed frame when the door that won’t lock is opened (because I’m sure the door will be opened, that’s the kind of trip this is right now)—or blood-crotched on top of / which bin?
So I’m walking to 7-Eleven a little after 4 a.m. in this city I want to know.
I bleed when I’m near the ocean.
In two days, I’ll read poems about a wrong body.
I don’t bleed regularly, never been a 28-day girl, sometimes not even a 128-day girl.
I’m off thyroid meds because they made me lose my hair, and—just like why I don’t wear glasses, only contacts—I can’t lose my hair.
I can’t have other things wrong with me.
Thinning hair in the last year of my 30s, wrong.
Glasses with lenses thicker than the frames, translucent wedges thick and brushing my cheekbones, wrong.
In two days, I’ll read poems in a wrong body for a State of the Nation reading, and the host will scream political haiku in between poets.
We will laugh.
In one week, I’ll wake again a little after 4 a.m. back home scared for not of my body.
Then a city I knew for just a few days will erupt, and I won’t know where to get accurate reports.
I’m still tired.
My last period before tonight was family vacation with the in-laws at Nags Head in September, before that a long weekend at Topsail Beach with friends in May.
It is a federal offense to mail real blood.
It should be law for any 24-hour store to carry super plus.
We won’t know when we’ll laugh again.
I bleed when I’m near the ocean.
I’d like to invite them along for this walk down a dark side street connecting Alberta & Killingsworth.
Add drops of red and blue food coloring to a bottle of corn syrup.
Roll rubber cement into a ball in your palm.
In two weeks, I’ll hear about the call for period art to be sent to the headquarters and a governor’s mansion, but my period tracker app will tell me I have 98 days left until a projected start date.
What ocean in February?
What body in February?
What bodies by February?
What bodies by February will be silenced, will be walled, will be registered, will be electroshocked, will be denied, what bodies will be shot, silenced, lined up, will be walled out, walled in, what bodies will still be?
I can’t find tampons on the shelves and panic, pacing the aisles.
I ask the clerk feminine hygiene products?—euphemism in a city I don’t know, and he doesn’t understand.
The language barrier is a thick wall between us.
You know, for women?
I am walking back from 7-Eleven with two mini-boxes of Kotex that cost too much.
I am thinking of old realizations if men had periods, these would be free and old jokes never trust anyone who bleeds for five days and doesn’t die.
In two weeks, I’ll sit with a group of women and we’ll wonder if a book with an opening poem referencing period blood will be well-received by contest readers and we’ll be happy in having this need met—this need for connection—and we’ll be angry and we’ll be sad and we’ll say that women are the best and women are the worst.
I’ll be 53% sure they are.
I’m less sure of who I can hold onto.
It was the second time I bled in Topsail.
The summer before, same thing: I went into the bathroom to clean up after sex, and there it was on the washcloth, months and months since the last, bright and streaked on nubby cotton.
No one wanted to be in the water near me.
What wrong bodies?
I did stain the underwear.
What wronged bodies?
In Bernadette’s poem, her speaker pisses in the ocean water, then a black, shiny head— / sea lion, a selkie wearing his seal coat, / or a little sandbar shark sensing blood on the beach? … we’re holding onto each other—
I stand at the sink, rubbing cotton against cotton, under a stream of hot water.
What wronged bodies and how do they bleed and live?
I’m still the only one awake in the guest house.
How we bleed and live.
The State of the Nation reading was part of Portland, Oregon’s Lit Crawl in November 2016, a Salon Skid Row / YesYes Books Showcase hosted by Josh Lubin and KMA Sullivan.
The recipe for fake blood and clots, along with general information about the campaign #TamponsForTrump, is taken from the article in Bust magazine “#TamponsForTrump Has Inspired Hundreds Of People To Send Their Periods To Trump And Pence – And You Can, Too” by Gabrielle Diekhoff.
Various news sources reported that 94 percent of black women voters and 68 percent of Latina women voters voted for Hillary Clinton in the 2016 election, but 53 percent of white female voters voted for Donald Trump.
In the summer of 2015, there were eight shark bites (a state record) on the North Carolina coast from the Outer Banks to the border with South Carolina.
The lines “a black, shiny head— / sea lion, a selkie wearing his seal coat, / or a little sandbar shark sensing blood on the beach? … we’re holding onto each other—” are taken from Bernadette Ulsamer’s poem “On My 34th Birthday,” included in her yet-unpublished manuscript.