By the Time I Finish This Book

by Elizabeth Vignali

The northern white rhino will be extinct. My oldest daughter will get braces. I will go on a date with a social worker. I will throw away 540 sandwich bags. I will throw away a beat-up Barbie dollhouse too trashed to be donated. I will throw away forty-seven toothpaste caps, white-ridged floating bits seabirds mistake for food, scoop up in their beaks, and feed to their babies until their bellies are so full of plastic they can’t hold anything else. My baby will get her period, will get hair under her arms, will reluctantly allow me to buy her a bra. I will tell her to wear it only if she wants to. I will read a lot and write a little. I will gain a dog and lose a cat. The world will gain a dictator or five and lose Lister’s gecko, the blue-tailed skink, the Cryptic Treehunter, Spix’s Macaw, and the Kihansi spray toad. I will say I’m going to stop drinking eighty-nine times. I will not stop drinking. I will fall in love with the social worker. I will throw away 740 pounds of plastic. I will throw away potato chip bags, dog food bags, sourdough bread bags, bags of organic zucchini, bags of salt & pepper pistachios. I will throw away plastic trays of brown rice crackers and pre-cut veggies with ranch dip. I will throw away ballpoint pens and Chapstick tubes and deflated beach balls and candlestick wrappers and burned-out ropes of Christmas lights and cavernous shampoo bottles and flaccid balloons and stringy red nets that held oranges and worn-out stuffed animals my children said they couldn’t live without and translucent fake Easter basket grass and listless strips of dental floss and those Amazon envelopes that say they’re recyclable but the sanitary service won’t take. The social worker will move in with me. The dog will learn that she’s safe now, that no one will kick her ever again, that if she pays attention the cat will teach her how to squeeze through the backyard fence, that if she rolls on her back we’ll rub her tummy even as we’re scolding her. My oldest daughter will get her first girlfriend. She will lose her first girlfriend. She will get her second girlfriend. She will take piano lessons, cello lessons, voice lessons. I will miss seeing my oldest daughter. My youngest daughter will keep climbing trees. I will tell her to never stop climbing trees. I will lose two grandmothers. I will marry the social worker. I will gain a son and another daughter. We will shoot hoops and roller skate and sit on picnic blankets and count starlings in the cherry tree. We will throw away plastic tubs of strawberries and twisty drinking straws and phone chargers and shiny curls of ribbon and candy wrappers and rainbow markers and bubble-blowing wands and hangers from new clothes and light-up sneakers with holes in the toes and frayed brown tarps and and and

Elizabeth Vignali is an optician and writer in the Pacific Northwest, where she co-produces the Bellingham Kitchen Sessions reading series. She is the author of Object Permanence and coauthor of Your Body A Bullet. Her poems and essays have appeared in Willow Springs, Cincinnati Review, Mid-American Review, Timber, Tinderbox, The Literary Review, and elsewhere.