“From the Women’s Restroom” by Kaitlyn Spees

Kaitlyn Spees


The restroom in my workplace is like
women’s rooms everywhere.
The floor is thumbprint-sized tiles
in three distinct shades of gray arranged
in no discernable pattern. Just above
the sinks of course there’s one of those
ubiquitous and sanctimonious stickers
shaped like a bare blue foot,
reminding me that “Water is Life”
and thanking me for “Using Less,”
which invites, in my view, a discussion
about what “Using Less Life”
might possibly mean. This restroom
boasts two paper towel dispensers—
one, modern, breadbox-sized gray plastic,
wails over waste while it grants
each waving supplicant a short
sheet. The other, old-school metal,
offers its three-fold papers freely,
then gapes, emptily, at a long-defunct
tampon dispenser still asking, forlornly, for quarters.
Flyers taped just above eye-level
inside each stall’s gappy half-door
entertain their (quite captive)
audience with primary-colored
flowcharts and checklists about the Clery Act
and guidelines for mandatory reporting.
I read them idly each month on the days
when I bivouac to the bathroom repeatedly
to shiver and yawn and pass
blood clots which bloom in the toilet water.
They’re strange little rooms, right? Where we choose
courteously not to hear our colleagues’ business.
The flyers change with the times.
In 2016, for example, the signage sought
volunteers for a clinical trial to see whether
IUD insertion could be made less painful.
The response was, understandably,
less than enthusiastic: because—given a choice?
Who would want to be on the control arm
of that study? For months that hopeful flyer’s
sad, intact, phone-numbered fringe fluttered
in the slam of stall doors until the election,
after which those little slips of paper
vanished like hotcakes. I think I laughed
a single dull bark when I saw how shorn
the flyer had become. And here,
I think today, shivering, yawning, cramping,
is the fruition; about to bloom in blood.

from Poets Respond
June 26, 2022


Kaitlyn Spees: “I’m not sure this poem is finished yet, but tossing it out into the void this week feels like doing something, so here I am sending it in anyway.”

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