Swell / Swollen by Kristina Ten

Swell / Swollen

  1. Every pain is compared to childbirth. How much does your toothache, dog bite, scraped elbow hurt on a scale of one to ten, ten being childbirth?
  1. It’s a summer of weddings and I go to all of them alone. The venues are beautiful and you can tell the couples really love each other. It hurts a four.
  1. At some Finnish weddings, the bride wears a plate on her head during the first dance. Eventually, the plate falls and breaks. The number of pieces it breaks into determines how many children she’ll have.
  1. In the Russian tradition of khleb y sol, the bride and groom are presented with a loaf of salted bread. They each take the biggest bite they can and the one who takes the bigger bite is declared the head of the household.
  1. I cry at every wedding at exactly the same time.
  1. I can’t stop looking at doulas’ Instagram accounts, the ones with the pictures of inflatable pools set up in living rooms. Sometimes they post a video and I watch the blood cloud the water on a loop.
  1. Beyoncé announces her pregnancy on Instagram. In the picture, she’s wearing a veil and a lacy purple bra I later learn is from Agent Provocateur. She’s kneeling against a backdrop of flowers with her hands on her belly looking absolutely infinite. I think when our world dies, she could birth us a new one.
  1. I buy three planters’ worth of marigolds from Home Depot.
  1. People I sort of know start announcing their pregnancies with their versions of the Beyoncé picture. It’s cute only the first time and then it hurts a six so I get off Facebook.
  1. I eat a large basket of French fries so I can pose in front of the mirror bloated.
  1. I’ve always loved pomegranates. I love pomegranates the way I love rescue dogs and emotionally withholding people. It’s something about the amount of work required and what the work does for the sweetness.
  1. My parents call to tell me about the progress on their new house. They say they’ve put in a bathtub with a shallow floor and an extra handheld showerhead: special features for washing their future grandkids.
  1. I rewatch that movie where Natalie Portman is pregnant in a Wal-Mart.
  1. I go to Lima and end up in a museum of erotic art. There are sculptures of women with wide eyes and magnificent, cavernous vaginas. There are scowling women with deep belly buttons and there are people fucking and jaguars fucking and llamas fucking. There are carafes with limp dicks for handles.
  1. Beyoncé has twins. No one is sure which day it happened, but some people speculate it was on Tupac’s birthday.
  1. I’m back on the doulas’ Instagram accounts. I zoom in on the thick, ropy umbilical cords, I can’t help it.
  1. I babysit for a friend. We play a game where the floor is normal and am lava.
  1. During a casual conversation, my coworker finds out I don’t know how to braid my own hair. She says, “You don’t know how to braid your own hair? Are you even a woman?” I know she’s joking but.
  1. The marigolds die.
  1. In the “Recommended for You” section of Amazon dot com, there’s a tape measure especially for measuring pregnant bellies. It comes in pink and blue and has different pregnancy milestones written along its length. I think this wouldn’t have happened if I hadn’t spent so much time googling pregnant Beyoncé.
  1. My friend and I get wine drunk at her house and talk about when we were kids and that computer game The Sims. She says she used to make all the female Sims pregnant, too. Probably a lot of girls our age did that.
  1. A guy in my neighborhood pushes his small dog around in a stroller. I used to think it was weird, but now, honestly.


Swell Swollen

Kristina Ten is a writer and weaver living in Oakland, CA. Her poetry and stories have been published in Word Riot, The Literateur, Pantheon Magazine, The Awl, Garbanzo Literary Journal, and Quiet Lightning’s sPARKLE & bLINK.

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