← Issue 10
by Dacia Price
There is a hole the size of a grain of rice in my cervix. The missing flesh sits in a plastic cup where my name is written in neat black ink. It’s probably nothing, my doctor says after she makes the cut but before I’m allowed to get dressed, This is just a precaution. A precaution. I say nothing. I am preoccupied with the cup. Through the plastic, I strain to see the piece of me curled at the cup’s base. I want to verify its proportions but I’m trapped, tethered to stirrups and this paper gown.
The way of most things.
There is a white crowned sparrow living in my neighbor’s tree who sings each time I walk by; a melodic twee-diddle-dee-dee—ha-ha-ha-ha. I practice its song as whistle, then as hummed tune. Mine is a poor facsimile. I linger under the branches listening, hoping to commit the notes to memory, attempting to complete my music lesson. Hello, I want my song to say, I am here.
I hear its mate return the song a moment later from a tree just down the street.
Here I am.
There you are.
News to be carried.
News of a missing Autistic boy reaches me while I sit on the front porch of my house. His mother is distraught. Her other children have been sent out on foot and bicycle to find him while she patrols the neighborhood by car, windows all the way down. She gives instructions for what to do if he’s found: Don’t touch him, she warns us, just walk beside him and keep him safe. He’s non-verbal, we learn, and easily frightened. It’s best if we just call. She hands us each her number.
Dusk turns the sky orange, the clouds purple. The breeze rustles leaves in the trees, carrying aromas of flowers; cut grass. A rabbit hops; a deer wanders through a yard; someone is BBQing; kids’ voices over rooftops; a screen door against a wood frame. Somewhere a dog barks.
Then here again.
My mother has a pain in her side that is probably pneumonia but she isn’t so sure. It’s lingering. Consistent. Gnawing at her insides. I don’t know, she says, This feels significant. The doctors take images of her body and name the tumors they find inside after things we might eat. An orange. Then blueberries. Grapes. Scattered grains of rice. They live inside her. Lungs // Liver // Colon // Kidneys.
Pregnancy books measure fetal development in these same units. A poppy seed at week four. Blueberries at seven. Bananas at twenty. At forty, a woman is ready to birth a watermelon.
My mother is not going to birth a watermelon.
We’ll try to make her comfortable, the doctors say.
White crowned sparrows are the size of medium oranges, though they weigh much less. No more than an ounce, I read. How much does a grape weigh? I wonder, or a blueberry? More or less than a sparrow? This information feels vital to my understanding. White crowned sparrows are the size of what fruit? I type, but Google is unyielding. It shows me photos of oranges and pregnant women and birds in flight.
Knowing and not knowing.
The phone rings and doesn’t ring. Results are known and unknown. There is no pain. I write that down. No pain. I’m keeping a list. No discomfort either, though I have a sort of feeling; a heaviness that wasn’t there but now might be. A pressing of organ against organ as each shifts, vying for space. The formula Google gives for calculating the weight of all my inner organs is complicated so I look at a chart instead. On the right, a list of organs. On the left, a range of weight in grams. Heart // Liver // Pancreas // Right Lung // Left Lung // Right Kidney // Left Kidney // Spleen // Thyroid.
They said they’d call. (Uterus isn’t listed)
They don’t call. (Neither is cervix)
When will they call?
Inside, my body presses against itself and I am certain I can feel it grow. I stand and walk again around the living room.
Dacia Price is an MFA candidate at Northern Michigan University where she teaches composition and is associate editor for Passages North. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in Pacifica Literary Review, New Limestone, Chaleur, Storm Cellar, and others.
Here//Not Here won the 2022 Roadrunner Nonfiction Prize
Nonfiction judge Emily Huso wrote: “What I love about this lyrical collage essay is how effectively the structure replicates the speaker’s anxiety and uncertainty as she awaits news of her diagnosis; the writer masterfully allows the white space to hold the reader’s contemplation of the ephemerality of human existence, each life, like a lusty sparrow’s song, so brilliant and brief.”