Nicole McCarthy

The female octopus, after mating, produces tens of thousands of eggs. With a short life span of a few years, if lucky, she only gets one shot at producing offspring to outlive her. She weaves them into delicate strands at the back of her den and uses her siphon to blow debris off to keep them clean. Octopuses live solitary lives, separating immediately at birth and hoping to escape the pod without being eaten. An octopus can spend almost a year of her life hiding and hunting, turning shells into shields or floating through endless forests of kelp. They can dream, too. With their flesh flashing white and red and burgundy and brown, one color to the next in a moment. But the female octopus at the back of her den, protecting her eggs, no longer hunts. In protecting her eggs, she gives up her pursuits, gives up her body, to keep them safe. She fasts. She lives long enough to see them hatch, then dies.

In humans, around 300,000 eggs live inside a female body facing
puberty. That number decreases to around 70,000 by the time she
reaches 30.

I have spent the last twentytwo years wishing my eggs away, cursing them, month by month as they float down the drain. I have spent the last ten years telling people I won’t be having kids, that I don’t want them. Breaking my mother and grandmother’s wishes, returning worn onesies.

But now I’m thinking a lot about sacrifices.

Nicole McCarthy is an experimental writer and artist based outside of Tacoma. Her work has appeared in PANK, The Offing, Redivider, Glass: a Journal of Poetry, a Best American Experimental Writing Anthology, and others. Her work has also been performed and encountered as projection installation pieces throughout the Puget Sound. A SUMMONING is her first nonfiction collection, published by Heavy Feather Review. Find her at

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