It was a late summer.
The cows had been pushing since may and still no calves by june.
In fact, nothing living came from all that pushing but another gasp of cold,
a fetus spilled onto the ground. A wet, unbeating heart.
At the county fair, the church woman taught us how to keep ourselves whole.
She took us by the arms and showed us how to hold a red balloon
with only our waists,
how to make our hips curl in like spoons,
how to make our bodies into hollowing utensils.
And when the first calf finally came,
all the women stood in the barn
with curled-in stomachs and buckled knees,
ready to do what our bodies had been taught to do: receive.
That first calf came like a bullet from a loaded gun.
The delivery stole the oxygen from our lungs and left us gaping,
this is what my body could do
if I knew how to use the machinery of my limbs.
This is the sharp relief to the desire I never knew I had
but that I was born shrieking and accustomed to.
This is how I could learn to love the thing that tears me in two.
July— South Florida
The night my grandmother died on her couch in july,
the temperature on her thermostat still read 67 degrees.
In florida, we sat on the tile floor
and sorted my grandmother’s jewelry between our legs.
We made piles. We breathed through our mouths because
it smelled like cigarette smoke.
I looked at my grandmother’s body.
I didn’t touch her forehead like my mother did
because I was afraid it would echo.
My sister said she didn’t love her anymore because love was a living thing.
We swam in the ocean and I got a tan line from my grandmother's silver.
My mother cried so hard she thought she dislocated a rib.
I told her it’s ok, once, when I was in Vermont,
I saw an animal ripped in two by love.
She said, bring me coffee.
August— New York
The cicadas didn’t start up until august.
At the MOMA,we studied photographs of women
cutting fruit, carrying children, holding their hands in fists inside their pockets.
We named our future daughters things we would name our sons:
Jude, and Addison and August.
The cicadas were relentless.
I read an article that said, to understand how female cicadas make their mating sound, imagine pulling your ribs to the point of buckling collapse.
I looked at a picture of a woman holding up a bloody beet.
I tried contracting the muscles in my chest and
carving my stomach into the outline of a red balloon.
It’s the august before I turn an adult
and I am just now learning the uses for my waist, for my ribs.
I wonder why they don’t tell us when we’re young
how women must learn to break themselves for love;
that the only unbroken rib we will ever know was Adam’s.
and there’s a reason Adam didn’t carry life.