Christina Brown 
September 2019

Christina is currently a graduate student in the American Studies department at California State University, Fullerton. Her poems and short stories have been published in places like Fight Evil With Poetry Anthology: Volume One, Broken Pencil Magazine, The Island Fox, Sammelwerk, and self-distributed zines. She is a founding member of the Real Poets of Orange County, Managing Editor at Pear Shaped Press, and a volunteer writing mentor and member of the College Education team at WriteGirl in Los Angeles. Most of her work centers around themes of identity, womanhood, the body, and healing. She drinks too much coffee and she cares about your natal chart. When she's not frantically writing her thesis or working at her day job as a content marketing specialist, she performs her poetry around Southern California and tries to keep her house plants alive.

TAMPON TALK

This is a story about me,
a teenage warrior princess.

The first time I tried using a tampon

my mother had to help me. 

My 15th birthday is tomorrow
I’m having a culturally appropriative
luau-themed pool party
and I am not going to miss out.
I am fiercely devoted to maxi pads
no matter how many times they fail me.
Like the day I realized they don’t come in a waterproof option? 

Imagine my surprise. 

I really tried to test their trust.
Two days earlier, I had jumped into my parents’ pool

wearing one without wings
because, yknow, bikini bottoms
as a trial run
and was immediately aware of the fact that I was now

straddling a kitchen sponge pillow
which had quickly released its grip on my bathing suit. 

(She’ll float too.) 

I thought about how the Grand Canyon was carved from water

and felt very stupid for thinking my bikini bottoms
and store brand maxi pad would somehow
claim exceptions to the laws of nature. 

So my mother buys me the box of tampons I ask for at the grocery store

and sits outside the bathroom door for 20 minutes
coaching me through the existential breakdown
neither of us anticipated.

She brings me a towel to lay on and a water bottle from the fridge.
She offers several very valid suggestions for more comfortable insertion
but I just can’t do it.
My body is still a largely undiscovered island and I haven’t yet learned to swim

or learned that I even like swimming.
I just know that I want to wear a bathing suit tomorrow
and mother nature is personally terrorizing me. 

It doesn’t seem so unnatural for me to ask my own mother for help with this.

After all, she taught me how to tie my shoelaces
and make grilled cheese sandwiches.
And really 

how is helping me put my first tampon in so different from teaching me
how to blow my nose as a child
or spell my own name?

My mother informs me that mechanically speaking
these are very different lessons and procedures.
My mother is horrified by my request
and swears me to secrecy, because if she was a CPS officer

she would definitely ask questions about the 14 year old girl

lying on a towel 

on the floor of her parents’ bedroom

(yes this required 2 rooms and 2 towels)

next to her mother, plastic applicator in hand
held not like a magic wand but more like a wrench
her daughter’s body a car
whose hormones have recently caused some cosmetic changes

no one agreed to pay for. 

But my mother loves me
and luau-themed pool parties
and female liberation
so she assumes the role of bizarre mechanic one more time

and I black out. 

 

When I wake up she asks me
to never ask her to do that again.
She says I don’t have to wear tampons yet if I don’t want to;

she will find another way
but that someday, I will need to learn to stop fearing myself.

The one lesson she does not know how to teach. 

THE THINGS I WISHED I LOVED

the ten inch difference between my ribs and my hips / my pelvis as a center / as my center / instead of someone else’s genesis / my blemishes / an alternate universe in which I choose / all of them and they suit me / my cheekbones invisible unless / I skip dinner for a couple of months / the smile that keeps them under / blankets / the purple blue scars that remind me that I have grown / that I will grow / the white lines that once screamed but now / whisper / soft but hold their own / memories / the stretch marks spreading down my thighs / spelling out stories in a language my lovers can’t read 

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