Strange how such a small dark blot
On so thin a rectangle of film
Should so easily wrench open the sluices of despair.
I hold it to the light, squinting,
My heart already absent from my chest,
A fledging fled before the forest burns.
You rasp some weak assertion,
Your normal boldness drained
Like a drought-stricken lake
By innervating possibilities.
I hear the word abortion
And my mind tilts off its axis.
Water on the brain. An absurd phrase,
Not nearly ominous enough.
Hydrocephalus—the Latin weighs heavy,
Like the arcane pronouncements
Of a judge or priest, the thundering decree
Of an imperious divinity.
I insist on a second opinion,
Even as you flip through a medical text
You picked up at the library,
Moaning like a mother already bereft
When you see those bulging skulls,
Those empty eyes.
Termination. You’re adamant. Resolute.
A childhood spent as a schizophrenic’s sister
Has robbed you of the will, the compassion,
To raise such a shattered child. Or perhaps
You know a compassion I can’t, an existential
Love that halts suffering before it begins.
When we learn the baby is fine,
That its umbilical cord passes over its head
Like the twining dastar of a pious Sikh,
First relief creeps into our eyes, then guilt.
We never could’ve done it, we assure each other.
But we know. We know what we are.