(With reference to the Stephen King novel of the same title)
I learn about the shame of a woman’s body
from my mother’s handwritten notes.
The ones I pass, red-faced, to my teacher
that excuse me from showers and swimming.
I stand at the edge of the echoing pool,
flush under the stare of my classmates
and imagine every laugh is aimed at me,
humiliated by my exclusion
and worried that while I stand here
everyone can smell the iron of my blood;
see the stain seeping into my skirt’s fabric
and dribbling down the inside of my thighs.
There is no pride in womanhood here;
no sisterly bond in the changing room
when our pubescent bodies are revealed
from under layers of baggy clothing.
Where every breast bud and roll of fat
is scrutinised and found wanting;
where pads and tampons are bad
but not even needing them is worse.
Steeped in lessons from Carrie
we fear becoming targets of ridicule;
are cruel and careless with our bodies
as we absorb a shame we don’t understand.
Susan Darlington’s poetry regularly explores the female experience through nature-based symbolism and stories of transformation. It‘s been published in Dreich, Dream Catcher, and One Hand Clapping among others. Her chapbook ‘Traumatropic Heart’ is upcoming from Selcouth Station. Follow her @S_sanDarlington.