5. November. “Fallopianode” by Racquel Malone

If I never have a daughter/ these child bearing hips will sink into old womanhood, maybe never missing what they never had

If she never shows up/ I won’t wallow neither will I rejoice/there is no real loss or gain

If I never have a daughter/the leaves will still fall every October and I will still drink warm whiskey in black tea and think of you

My own mother stands in front of me and doesn’t see me/only the brown infant she birthed in mid-July

and I may never know what she means by that

I may never honor my sister by giving my daughter her middle name

I may never understand labor pain

If I never have a daughter/I can never feel the trouble of her toothache or diaper rash

I can never be held liable for waiting too long to take her to the ER; I’ve enough guilt of my own

My niece will cry out for me and I will still turn away; still ill-equipped and on the run, unable to soothe her deeply

She will want for me to stay, to be around at bed time and all I can offer is cheap sweets and weak promises

Tomorrow, next winter, soon/ Like the Easter bunny or Claus/ I am reliable but unnecessary

If I never have a daughter/ my belly will grow fat, not from housing new life, but from carbohydrates and Chinese food

The moon will continue to guide me through life/ I’ll be forever in its lunar prowess/ daughter or not, I’m woman still

Winters from now when the air is dry and grey/I’ll hum a daughter-less tune and wait for all my ghosts to come out and dance

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4. October. “Execution Points” by Emily Parenti

On summer Saturdays it was grass gymnastics—

routines on pretend apparatus,

flips without a spring floor.

It hurt pounding prepubescent ankles and wrists

into unforgiving dirt without plushy mat cushion,

but this was the sweet spot between character and penance,

and there was instinct even then to focus training there.

I had makeshift drills:

dive-roll over lawn chairs or table-topped sisters,

cartwheel over jump ropes held a few feet off the ground.

But it was hard to get amplitude,

as the judges would call it.

I couldn’t elevate off backyard soil.

Coaches told me “mind over matter,” so I pretended

my sore foot made me Kerri Strug

and the wind-waving skin on our corner birch

was the encouraging hand of a Karolyi.

I told myself just one spotless handspring

and you’ll wear the laurels like Carly in Athens.

But I stayed heavy and clumsy until I abandoned my Olympians

and refigured myself as a Jesse White Tumbler.

I’d adjust my white suspenders on an all red outfit,

lug thin panel mats into the center lane of a stopped parade.

I’d run through warm-up sequences with my teammates

and give no thought to form.

Our handstands were bent-kneed and arch-backed,

no shoulder stretch or tucked-in chin.

But when it came time for the difficult skills,

we erupted without effort.

Saltos suspended for three mississippis;

four-trick passes stretched to six or seven.

Unlike the chalk-covered leotard-wearer

who gets height with hard arm swings toward the rafters,

with grimaces and repetitions,

with tight, hollow-bodied, upward shoves,

we lift simply from the chest.

We initiate flips with our sternums,

which cannot squeeze or strain.

We will our centers into the sky with inevitable velocity—

aortas magnetized to the tops of skyscrapers,

ribcages buoyed on Chicago smog.

And with all that energy concentrated at the heart,

our faces have no choice but to stay calm,

our limbs no choice but to swing light.

We float easy above our families and futures,

suspend over dirty cement.

And when we land we’re not judged but applauded

by kids on the curb with sticky hands

and melted chocolate on their shirts

and not even a faint awareness

of deduction or injury.

3. September. “Packrats” by Lisa Torem

Of course I buried my Alice Cooper chewing gum wrapper collection in a James Dean lunch box I fever pitch bargained for in Wicker Park.

“You don’t need this, do you?”

He cupped the flimsy papers in his sweaty fist and headed towards the dumpster.

“Wait!”

I pressed a frozen pigeon feather abandoned on Foster Beach between the pages of my mum’s yearbook photographs,

And plastered the spine with burlap-sack ribbons.

Beneath the late night circles of her sea-green eyes, I glue-stuck shards of Venetian glass from my great-aunt’s bargain basement lava lamp.

“Why can’t you save the world?” he cursed, narrowing his charcoal eye-slits. “Packrat!”

I scribble-scrawled his name with burning coals over sidewalk-chalked cement, scraping his initials with baby sister’s paper clip chains.

Pitch what I crave? Packrat. Destroy what I long for? Packrat. Torch my bedrock resolutions?

Packrat.

That first wisp of snowy hair?

My milk-stained serape?

Our Polaroid romance?

Packrat?

Open your soda with this rusty knife.
Carve our cake with this jigsaw splice.
No one died from a messy life.
Save something
that brings us back.

That brings

us back.

Packrats.

1. July. “Aubrey Graham” by Surabhi Kanga

I think my hands are older than the rest of my body. They are wrinkled in strange places, as if all the corrosion from a decade of nicotine rests carefully between the tips of my fingers and my bony wrist. They’re crooked too, with the age of a small, old woman that I sometimes think is me. A soul as old as the tree in my mother’s backyard, and just as bent. As old as the crack in the china cup from my favorite tea set, with the little pink flowers and gold lines. A tiny river, flowing weakly down the side of the little handle, branching off into smaller estuaries. Rivers accompanied by forests of stubbed cigarettes and broken marriages. I took that tea set against my mother’s wishes, after she was far too… gone, I should say. I brought it home and put a kettle on. I stood and watched the water boil, the tea leaves morbidly dancing, the leaking color making it look like the heat was draining their life force, when in fact they had been dead a long time. The fumes made spirals; my hair stood on end from the moisture and the anticipation. I stood there long after the smell of eucalyptus leaves had faded from the memory of the air.

Drake played softly, ironically in the background.

Before Drake, I always felt uneasy with the way people found themselves in artists, in people they had never met, that they couldn’t know. I never understood it. I stood in front of canvases and surrounded myself with words, but I couldn’t hear myself think. I spent years trying to breathe. And then one day, I found him, gleaming through the banality of internet radio. He sang, but I heard only serene water washing over hot coal. Drake can make anything sound like a love ballad. Drake finds love in the lipstick stains on a glass as often as he finds it in body glitter and metal poles; he finds love and doesn’t put it on a pedestal. I imagine we would sit in the booth of a diner with red leather seats and not talk. We would lower our eyes in the harsh white light, we wouldn’t speak for fear of not being able to rise above the cacophony of happiness around us. We would eat apple pie, drink coffee, and not finish either. He would sign the checks not Drake but Aubrey, and it would make me want to smile. We would keep coming back to the same diner. I would never have to say it, but he would know it was because there was a little pink and gold flower on the corner of their menus. And he would never order the tea even though he loved it.