544: Elegy for Estrogen

544: Elegy for Estrogen

544: Elegy for Estrogen


I am Ada Limón and this is The Slowdown.

The mystery of the woman’s body is a strange one. Chemicals moving through us. Sometimes activated by the cycles of the moon. That seems like I’m making it up. Hormones. Even saying the word hormones makes me roll my eyes. Just recently I was told by my doctor that I was not going through menopause. But she also said that it would most likely happen slowly in the next five years or so, and that, I quote, “All sorts of things could happen to the body.” I laughed at her. “All sorts of things could happen to the body.” It sounded like a joke. It also sounded ominous.

I remember a friend’s mother once going through menopause when we were in high school and she had such a rough go of it. She was wild with it, she felt out of control. It was so severe that she even had thoughts of self harm.

Meanwhile, others seem to pass through it without too many issues at all. Hormones are bizarre. Wicked. As a person who hates being controlled by anything, I don’t like to relinquish control to the body’s chemistry.

When I was a teenager, my hormones were so out of control that I often was crying one minute and laughing the other and my poor family would stand there completely stunned with the whiplash of my own mercurial moods. I once couldn’t stop crying for two days and then suddenly came out of my room as if nothing had happened.

I have friends going through menopause now and they are all about trying to outrun its effects with certain healthy eating habits and exercise and meditation, and still the body’s chaotic chemicals do their acrobatic work. We only talk about it occasionally because like most people, no one wants to admit that we cannot harness our own body’s wildness.

And how can I even begin to talk about what hormones can do to the body transitioning. My trans friends and family could write volumes on the benefits and the horrors of hormones. But the one thing we can all agree on is that they change us. Whether we’ve signed up for it or not.

In today’s imaginative poem, we watch as the speaker examines how missing a certain hormone changes the body. It’s a beautiful and rarely seen description of what it is to be changed from the inside out.

Elegy for Estrogen
by V. Penelope Pelizzon

Without which the tits, anxious
              rabbits, sit up on their haunches
no longer in the sun nibbling grasses,
              but cower, fine fat alertnesses
pressed flat, who sense
              the raptor’s presence.
And the chin, ample in
              its sympathy, sinks down
laying the folded
              pleats of its old
coat upon the lawn to lap the dew.
              Must the cunt, too,
lament this loss?
              Atrophies dwindle once-
trophied glades, whose rivulets
              rinsed the helmets
of kings? What balm, after lush
              spring and summer’s flush
fall dumb,
              to say wisdom will come
pressing its cool cabbage leaf across my brow?

              Let all perfumes perish now.

This insistence
              clocks can be stopped with resistance
insults. The one relief
              at certain age
is being sage
              enough at last to admit when I feel bereft.
I’ve little time left
              for lies
meant to anesthetize

"Elegy for Estrogen" by V. Penelope Pelizzon. Used by permission of the poet.