by Catherine Jagoe


“Getting the curse”
your mother said
around the time she bought the panty-girdle
that would squash your stomach flat
and iron curlers
that would make your straight hair bend
picture-frame your face.

You learned
a strange new way to sleep
propped awkwardly upon your side
pins pulling at your hair
rollers digging in your scalp
vicious and unbending
as the elbows of self-righteousness.

But later you found out
the curse is when it doesn’t come.

Who’d have thought you’d want
that blood like grace?
Pray for signs of seepage
oozing down the walls
to say your thaw has started
and your field has not been sown.

And when you’re grown
and gone, remember the trip when
fractured from your love in time and space
you waited anxiously for him to call.
And when he did, the way
your blood let down
like milk
when you heard his voice.

Published in the chapbook anthology
A Voice of One’s Own: Twenty-Five Years
of Readings at A Room Of One’s Own
Feminist Bookstore (
Madison, 2000).