Even at Forty

I am well-trained,
even at forty.

Be discreet. 

The pads are stashed.
A secure location–
pockets and purses are other weapons
of protection.

I hope for an empty restroom
and unwrap the packaging
like a timid teenager,
even at forty.

Flow and leaks
are profanities
not supposed to exist
outside of that closed stall.

We are required to handle
this common bond

I hesitate, even at forty,
to bring light to the dark.

Don’t say the word.

A suitable substitute
must be used, even at forty.

Don’t make others uncomfortable.

And yet, even at forty,
I feel the discomfort.

Silent rules pursue me,
even at forty, an age that gives me
the right to disregard these rules
about women’s bodies.

Even at forty, I cannot unlearn
these things that have silenced me.

Deirdre Garr Johns
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