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the only good thing - andrea lianne grabowski

for R. N. A.

i’m eighteen & holding you,

your knees hooked over my elbow,

bangs cut straight just like mine at two.

there are a hundred things about that day

that crowd my mind, but i’d erase

every memory but that of you.

you’re three & you wish i was a child. you say

if i write, i will be a volcano. my mother loves you

like the second daughter she never had. i’m sharing your mama.

are you sure that’s your mama? i’m your mama. and she’s my mama.

we are standing in my basement in the dark &

you hold my hand tight so you will not be scared.

then, you hide somewhere-place-else.

we sit on top of the dryer, wait to be found.

twenty & it takes every piece of me to pretend

my body is not this heavy. you are wearing my hoodie,

you are chasing me past the hammered copper mermaid

mirror on your blue kitchen wall, & i am thinking,

at least i have you, at least i have you.

twenty-three & someones you & i both forget

i am not a teenager. you see me in a state

of limbo, like no other adult you know. i will be

the prince to your princess, pitch my voice high

for the dollhouse dolls, serious for a veterinarian,

wooden doctor kit scattered across my bed.

you bring me a glass of water with lemons you sliced yourself.

lay your head on my heart & ask why it is breaking,

offer to marry me instead because, well, you’re a girl.

i have not laughed like this in weeks, baby sister. i want

to build a future where you will be safe.

you won’t yet understand what a quarter-life crisis is for years to come.

but your mother sets me a birthday table with a vase of tulips

while you sing, penguins attention! penguins begin! & i am thinking,

at least i have you, at least i have you.

your bangs grew out a long time ago. i pick you up from school

& we watch a squirrel devour peanuts while we wait for tacos.

you steal all my shredded cabbage & salsa verde—i don’t mind.

your basement flashes with your toy disco light.

you, a gymnast clad in rainbows—alexa, play “i just wanna shine.”

me, not too self-conscious to dance, for once.

you lean into my lap after the egg hunt, & i run my hand down your back.

what’s wrong, is there a bug on me? there is so much that feels wrong.

but not here, not now. no, it is only that i love you.

"the only good thing" is dedicated to my 9-year-old bestie and the ways she has been there throughout the tumultuous years of my life since her birth. what excites me about this piece is that i rarely find myself writing purely positive pieces about relationships, and while there are bittersweet undertones, this piece is fully a celebration of this person.


andrea lianne grabowski is a midwestern lesbian writer occupying anishinaabe land. her published work lives in HELL IS REAL Anthology, fifth wheel press, Scavengers, and elsewhere. she served as an editor for NMC Mag and is a Best of the Net nominee. you can find her making zines, on long drives being inspired by music, or peering in the windows of abandoned buildings.

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