The Threat

Sonogram at seven weeks, five days.
The young father sits against the corner
with her folded jeans, purple Nikes, eyeglasses.
She describes the bleeding, its amount, colors, time,
and cramps. The room is darkened, door closed,
the screen glows, never just black and white,
but eighty eight shades of gray melting into codes of little life.
The doctor teaches "That's the uterine souffle,"
increased blood flow to her womb,
that sound of oceans jostling up against one another.
But like craning their heads over the crowd
they all listen for a beat they've never met,
so how will they know? How will they know?
Finally it shuffles into sound in paper slippers,
double fast watch tick. No one speaks
but this insistent scrape like a tiny branch
from the outside wall.

The diagnosis: threatened spontaneous abortion.
There will be a number of rules: no smoking in the house,
frequent elevation of the feet, more drinking of water,
absolutely no coital activity. The nurse translates
slyly in his direction: "That means no sexual intercourse."
The young father looks down at his crotch
like a lap of sheepish weapon, stupid lusty flesh
that could pierce magic that seems to hold it all together,
what do they call it, a bag of waters? He sees the waters
running out on the floor with all his plans and promises,
clumsily spilled, miscarried, misplaced, wrong. He sees
his wife before him, kneeling to the puddle,
spreading her fingers, empty. He sees doors
opening and closing to him, backs turned away.

1997 Jessica Manke


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