I Mention the Unmentionable In the Yoga Class by Roseanne Freed

I Mention the Unmentionable In the Yoga Class

Inversions this evening,
said the male teacher
at the beginning of the yoga class,
Is anyone on their period?
I put up my hand.
Eight men and six women
turned round to stare,
I’ll give you different exercises.

My convent educated mother,
would be horrified to know
I’d told a roomful of strangers
I was a woman who menstruated.
Mom, who taught me to call my vagina,
my down there, and menstruation
by the Hindustani words mina minna,
was taught the facts of life
—a.k.a how babies are made—
by my father. On their wedding night.

I was so embarrassed, But he was kind,
Mom said, I learned fast.
I got pregnant on our honeymoon.

In the African town where I grew up.
Menstrual pads were wrapped
in brown paper
and hidden behind the counter.
Unable to mention the unmentionable,
I’d walk out the drug store
if served by a man.


Roseanne Freed grew up in apartheid South Africa and now lives with her husband in California. A Best of the Net nominee, her poems have appeared or are forthcoming in ONE ART, MacQueens Quinterly, Naugatuck River Review, and Blue Heron Review among others.

8 thoughts on “I Mention the Unmentionable In the Yoga Class by Roseanne Freed

  1. From “mina minna” to the simple, undeniable reality coming out during yoga class. Somehow there is a circle that ends in truth there.

  2. Edith, its been a long interesting circle to go from “mina minna” in South Africa to putting up my hand in a yoga class in Los Angeles.

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