Gas flames roar as I attend to the kiln. Through the spy port I peer into the shimmering gold light. Cone 2 has curled over, signifying the kiln is heating at the proper pace. The firing is progressing well.

My small sculptures were added last. One is a ridged sea shape, another has delicate anemone fingers frozen mid-wave, and last is a pair of candlesticks whose bases curve and lap like gathered silk.

To distract myself from my misadventure in love, I obsessed over tiny cracks in the drying porcelain and painstakingly smoothed them away.

After the pieces were bisqued, I dipped them into cool gray glazes that dry powdery and matte. The glaze labels were the only hint of the colors blooming in the kiln’s blaze. Eli’s blue, copper green, and opal.

At cone 6, the room hums with the firing. Restless and flushed, I fix tea and walk to ease my cramping empty belly.

When cone 10—the last one—slumps, I push together heavy iron slabs on top of the kiln to force the flames inward for the reduction firing.

Then it is finished. I shut off the gas.

The kiln rests for hours, ticking from the heat.

With gloved hands I lift out the cooling pieces. A shock of recognition passes through me. The candlesticks and sea form I glazed copper green have turned dark red as if splashed by birthing blood. In my palms I cradle the offspring I have chosen instead.

Two months later, when the man I’d unwisely loved moved away, I gave him the candlesticks. I never told him what they meant to me.

About the Author

Ellen Shriner is one of the founders and contributors to WordSisters, a shared blog. Her short memoirs have been published in several anthologies. Her personal essays have appeared in Medical Literary Messenger, The Sunlight Press, BREVITY’s Nonfiction Blog, Wisconsin Review, Mothers Always Write, BrainChild, and elsewhere. She lives in Minneapolis, Minn. with her husband, and she has two grown sons. www.wordsisters.wordpress.com,

Supporting Reproductive Rights

This is a critical time in our fight to preserve access to abortion and reproductive healthcare. We believe that every action counts. Here are three things you can do.

  1. Fight stigmatization by sharing your story and/or supporting people who have shared their stories. Supportive comments and likes make a big difference to the people who have chosen to share their personal experiences.
  2. Reach out to your representatives on the federal, state, and local levels and tell them that you want them to pass legislation that protects reproductive rights including abortion access.
  3. Donate to organizations committed to protecting access to safe and legal abortions. This writer recommended Planned Parenthood for the work they are doing to ensure access.

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