November 14, 2021

Madeleine Gallo

ABBA MAKES ITS COMEBACK AFTER FORTY YEARS

The same week my app tells me it’s been over forty days since my last period,
and I am suddenly prepubescent again, testing whether I can separate
Agnetha’s voice from Frida’s while I down cups of pineapple squares,
courtesy of Google’s “Top 10 Foods to Induce Periods,” like I’m still

ten years old and desperate-jealous over my sister’s yellow-wrapped pads,
and scented tampons, failing to heed her warning to “enjoy it while it lasts,”
instead wasting my time burning computer keys through PhD level research
on how to start early, driven by menstrual envy. Like I’m still the kid

rocking to Mamma Mia with her dad, elementary-school-bound, holding the four
CDs pressed back-to-back in their “Best of” album case, glittering like
grownup music. Now it’s fifteen years later for me, longer for ABBA, and Frida
sounds pretty amazing for a woman pushing seventy-six, remarks

one anonymous Voyage reviewer while I’m huffing through crunches
on the bathroom floor, then counting digital red dots backward to my last
cycle, though I’m already too aware of the number and only a little grateful
for the app’s nonchalance in telling me, like it doesn’t even matter,

like I haven’t long given up on the crunches, ceiling-staring, waiting for one
ballad to swell into the next and then punching pause after
pause to ward off the big silence when it’s all finally finished and there’s nothing
new to listen for. I remember the MTV videos where Agnetha

and Frida dazzled in their tall boots and skirts, and I was jealous, just starting
to wear chunky denim jackets to middle school, stitched together
by my mother, so I could carry my pads in my pockets. This was before I wore
the insides of my ear raw with my buds, listening to Agnetha

belt what kind of woman she can be, and freezing at every little buckle
and rumble inside me, hopeful a cramp might be coming
on. Now, my best friend and I gush over the resample of S.O.S. in one tab while I
explore the trending #PeriodsOptional in another until I become

a formless shadow seated in the corner stool, dunce-capped, lectured
on why blood does not equal woman. I know, but how
to be grateful for what is not optional? The absence is the clean tissue, or
the fortress of pads I build whenever this waiting happens,

like the sheer, tower-sized height of my wanting is enough to overflow me.
I want the harmonies to continue—Caesuras are scary; one
inhaled note bridged too long renders me faithless. “You don’t want this,”
said my sister in the backyard once, a red spot stained on her

shorts. “You don’t want this,” my father, when the scratched CDs were finally
trash-can-bound. How then to explain this continuous voyage
of my wanting? Half the songs I feel like I’ve already heard, but this is where
I seek comfort, this repetition of redo and rediscover. I keep

my track list of red dots on repeat, relieved by the howl of women’s voices.
I want, I want, I want.

from Poets Respond
November 14, 2021

__________

Madeleine Gallo: “My dad introduced me to ABBA when I was a small child and the band remains a family favorite among us to this day, with the exception of my mother (it’s okay; we’re all allowed one wrong opinion in life). I was thrilled about the debut of their new album Voyage after forty years without music, especially because I am too young to have experienced the release of any of their music when it was new. The week the album came out, I happened to be struggling with another one of my childhood companions, albeit a less magical one—menstrual trouble. While trying to learn new ways of considering and understanding my body and the fears I carry, intertwined with my sometimes damaging vision of my own femininity, I have been immensely moved by these two persistent female idols of mine. Thank you for the music, Agnetha Fältskog and Anni-Frid Lyngstad.”

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