Alina Borger


Kate brought a fertility goddess as a gift to the church Christmas party,
said, "It worked for us both times." She and her wife had each carried
one of their cherubs, boys so identical to their mothers they are like mirrors.
A single woman in her twenties opened it.
It was green, leafy-looking, like a dryad or Peter Pan, a May Queen
willowy thing with hands raised, holding a bowl.
The bowl of prayers from the couple hoping to conceive, the open womb, waiting for seed.
They'd had to borrow some seed. But Kate works at a hospital. There's a procedure for it.

Poor twenty-something. She'd brought a blank book and a bag of coffee,
would go home with a leafy woman, the supreme white elephant
in the room: my husband and I sat on the couch. The elderly man three
weeks from becoming grandpa said my name, said
"Don't you want to trade for the fertility goddess?" The room murmured to stillness,
a Brazilian graphic designer, expecting her third baby, stopped talking of missing the sun.
"That ship has sailed," I said, with a laugh. "No thank you."

Today's Sunday School lesson: pray only to God, not idols.
I am to let children make two columns,
one yes, one no. The no columns fill rapidly: poop, socks, toilet, chairs, cats.
It diminishes the lesson of idols, I think, to let children
decide what things they're not going to pray to. They pray already,
their whole lives bending in one direction or another—to Star Wars or to
recess or to Little Women—tiny things winning their allegiance, their attention, every day.

Myself, I haven't memorized the no column yet.
Give me the opportunity to pray to that working fertility goddess. I will fill her bowl
with prayers long extinguished and unanswered by the God in the yes column.
He has no womb, only a bosom in which he gathers his
people like sheep to lead them forward. That God is transgender,
not aspiring to birth pangs, but to justice for those with no homes,
no healthcare, no standing under law. I get it. She has bigger fish to fry.

Still, I watch those damn Facebook videos where a family
gathers in the dining room around a cake dyed to match the sex of a child in utero.
It's frosted so no one can see until they cut it. Except the baker, everyone discovers
It's a boy! at the same moment. The grandparents cry like it's labor and delivery.
They kiss the expectant mother. She deserves an extra kiss if it's a boy,
even here, in the land of the free and the home of the second wave.
Me, I want a little girl, so I can read her all my books and name her for my favorite
characters. And that lithe green woman, assuming she's on duty, I bet she could help.

Alina Borger is a writer and a high-school teacher in Iowa City, IA. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in Hermeneutic Chaos, The Mom Egg Review, Wherewithal, Kindred, The Examined Life, Garbanzo, and Brain, Child Magazine. When she's not writing or teaching, she's cheering for soccer matches between her two boys or curling up with a good book and a mug of chamomile tea.

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