MENSTRUATION POETRY

Urmila Chanam
Posted May 28, 2021 from India

"Menstruation Poetry", a recitation of several poems spanning over varied issues related to menstruation was organised on Instagram Live on the occasion of International Menstrual Hygiene Day, 28th May 2021 by Breaking the Silence Worldwide Foundation, an NGO based in India which is working to end myths, taboos and stigma associated with menstruation since 2014. Meaningful discussions around period pain, sexist jokes and behaviour targeting menstruators around Premenstrual Syndrome (PMS), period leave, period exile, sanitary products, solid waste management, the culture of shame and silence, managing menstruation during the pandemic, and call for action ensued after the recitals which featured poems from established writers like Pinky Chandran, a broadcasting journalist, poet, waste management expert and Co-Founder of Solid Waste Management Round Table; Charmaine Kenita a writer, entrepreneur and Founder of Out O Box Content, Shilok Mukkati a journalist/columnist, artist and independent advocate of inclusivity and diversity; and Urmila Chanam, Founder of Breaking the Silence Worldwide Foundation, menstrual health activist and journalist. In Pinky’s words, “Poetry is a way of examining our relationships, with the society at large, and helps rationalise, after all menstruation is a health issue to be navigated.”

Link to Menstruation Poetry on Instagram: 

https://www.instagram.com/tv/CPanyTKFGPD/?utm_medium=copy_link&fbclid=Iw...

SEVEN DAYS OF PERIOD

I bleed once in a lifetime, and it isn't a cycle.

I bleed to the birth I can give once in a lifetime.

Is it a period? I say it is.

When I bleed gallons of blood for a week,

indeed, it is my period.

The uterus is unknown to my body, and my blood is

not from the womb, not the womb that my mother bled or my sisters.

My bleeding is different from their stories.

The story that they never heard.

The story of non-cis-genderness.

Tenderness of unusual bleeding.

The bleeding, I never told.

The bleeding, I hushed into myself.

An Obligation, an isolation and a celebration.

My period was the birth of my vagina.

The beginning of my womanhood.

And, I found peace with my bleeding.

Years it waited to break out,

break out from the dysphoria,

Dysphoria of horrors.

I expected a flow of an aggressive river

which waited to blow out.

When she finally did, surprisingly, she was gentle.

White clothes cloaked the seven days of bleeding.

Every droplet of the bleeding spoke of the violence of a binary world.

Every droplet of the bleeding shunned the isolation of toxic masculinity.

Every droplet of the bleeding smiled the celebration of transcendence feminity.

My seven days of period stopped when she was ready to breathe her femininity, she who is Swayambu - self-created one.

-Shilok Mukkati

 

PMS

I wake up, ready to take on the world,

And then slowly, out of nowhere,

I find pain creeping,

Mild at first, then,

Building, shifting, twisting,

I ignore it,

Going about my day,

With a forced calm,

Making sense of this imposition,

And then suddenly,

I feel knotted and wound up,

I sigh,

Then cry, and I ask why?

I am hurting,

I find no reasons,

I want to vent, and cry

But, I try to disguise,

And put on my best foot forward,

It’s distressing,

I can’t justify,

Like dark clouds, hovering around,

I feel perplexed,

I feel my mood swinging,

Changing, conflicting, contradicting,

I go on an overdrive,

But, my emotions are running a riot,

I feel like a twig ready to snap,

I wonder,

Can rationality co-exist with irrationality?

I need a release,

But then,

A harsh word, or a toast burnt,

Or even a writer’s block,

Is enough to send me crashing...

 

BLEED IN DIGNITY

I walked, and walked,

Holding my child, in one hand,

Carrying another on my hip,

I walked and walked,

With my meagre belongings,

Mass Exodus,

They called,

Pictures of our walk back home,

Surfaced everywhere,

Some strangers offered food and water,

While some handed out masks,

Some offered sanitary pads,

But was I to do with the pads,

For my privacy was compromised,

Where are the spaces?

When our vulnerabilities don’t matter,

Where are the spaces?

When our existences have been invisibilized?

Where are the spaces?

When, I walked and walked

Where are the spaces?

When we were rendered homeless?

Where are the spaces?

Periods, then my friend

Was a luxury we could not afford…

For we need to bleed in dignity!

- Pinky Chandran

 

THAT SEETHING PAIN

That seething pain in the abdomen

The numbness in the knees

Forehead smothered with beads of perspiration

Irritation, impatience and exhaustion

What hope was there for me

Were it to occur for the rest of my life

Every month for few days?

 

That fear of staining my uniform

The distraction from what the teacher was saying

One more reason to be ridiculed

Side lined, silenced and warned

The dynamics in the classroom had changed

The inquisitive and participatory student

Transitioned into a back bencher unsure of herself.

 

That phase in our lives where no one

Ever asked our opinions on facilities meant for us

At home, in school, bus stand or airports

Did our business changing our pads in the quiet

In ugly, smelly broken toilets with empty buckets

We didn’t expect any better

Someone told us menstruation was dirty

Dirty things are not discussed to improve upon.

 

That deep line drawn at workplace

Dividing those who bleed from those who don’t

Propagating a lie of a weakness that doesn’t exist

Turning a blind eye to the power within the womb

Failing recognition and acknowledgment

Delaying truth and celebration.

 

So many seasons have come and gone

All left a mark on me, my body

Marriage, pregnancy, child birth, changing cities

Shifting jobs, parenthood and running a home

I waited for respite from the pain

“When you get married, it will go”, they said

“When you give birth to a child, it will leave you”

The child born will soon be an adult

That seething pain in the abdomen has held on to me.

- Urmila Chanam

 

THE COLOR OF BLOOD

If only it were as simple as a quiet river running its course

Or a visitor who came by infrequently to mark his presence and collect his dues

One day riding high on a wave and the next drifting at sea

What it would feel like if it didn’t come like clockwork but instead visited freely

The bright hue of luscious red staining our lips or the pop of cherry smiling prettily on our birthday cakes

Are even more welcome in their signs of growing up than......

this redness, this bleed.

 

In its presence, when it appears

Our worlds are shaken, our thoughts scattered

There’s shame, there’s fear, there’s groaning, there’s revulsion

Why does it have to be us? Isn’t it enough that we’re saddled with everything else?

And together with the pain and the stains, what goes unacknowledged is the crazy mood monster making its presence felt

In the days before this rivulet of red begins to run

Fear and pain, depths and highs of emotions

Keeping us so preoccupied and constantly wrung.

 

If only it didn’t take a life and a half to truly grasp

That the river that flows bright and blood red, is the font of life itself

That there is nothing more faithful and forgiving as this gush

Returning every month to the same body

Sometimes quiet and gentle, some others roaring and chaotic

For therein lies growing and living, for from it comes little ones, and life itself

To allow it to run its course in a surge of passion and pain

This wildness that changes and transforms young bodies into chalices of quiet strength, with much to gain

Of blood that is rarely spoken, yet even more rarely seen

Blood that’s so essential to us, the absence of which can make millennia of existence cease.

- Dr.Charmaine Kenita

 

This story was submitted in response to Menstruation Matters.

Comments 3

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Jill Langhus
May 31
May 31

Hi Urmila,

How are you doing? I hope you and your family are doing a little better, dear.

Thanks for sharing this recent, impactful event. I hope you had a good turnout?

Hope you and your family and friends stay safe. XX

Urmila Chanam
Jul 22
Jul 22

Deearest sister Jill,
I am doing well by the grace of God and my family is fine now. Thank you so muh for caring. With the pandemic, most organisations and initiatives have transitioned to conducting programs "online" which is a positive development because the importance of technology and internet have been realised by everyone. Thanks for sharing all the resources Jill- so fortunate to have a friend and sister like you. God bless you.
Prayers,
Urmila Chanam

Jill Langhus
Jul 23
Jul 23

Hello there, dear,

I'm very glad to hear it. You're very welcome, dear.

Yes, I think so. I'm looking forward to seeing/hearing more about your new brand:-)

You're welcome. And, I'm fortunate to have a friend and sister like you, dearie.

Hope you have a good weekend.xx