The Eighth Daughter

Kirin Gupta - Ecuador


December 12, 2011

She lies flat as a board

and is too skinny

Her eyes

The nurse has no words for them

Buen expresivos, she settles on.

Wide and bright

They look as though

They seek to be separate

from her too-small face,

Where her cheeks have sunken in,

Already at age 7.

And her lips are purple,

Bruised with worry.

 

I probe gently, to examine her stomach,

Which is jumping weakly

Beneath her ribcage.

There are rises and drops

In the arrangement of bones, beneath the dark skin that looks ready to tear,

Stretched too thin to cover this small female frame,

Constructed of frailty.

 

As I raise the stethoscope to my ear,

Already the pneumatic murmur is audible.

I move the scope gently over the tiny torso.

Wishing I wasn’t

Listening so carefully,

Wishing I couldn’t tell

How bad it is.

 

My head drops, involuntarily expressing what I am feeling, and

Behind me the nurse turns to the mother

And thinks aloud, too loudly, too harshly:

Why have you not brought her for help? Why not sooner?

Why don’t you love your daughter?

 

I am hoping I have heard

The accusation

incorrectly.

 

But before me,

Overlarge eyes glitter,

Unnaturally beautiful

Under the fluorescent light of the consultorio,

And the child in front of me is full of

silent comprehension.

 

The mother replies

Unhesitatingly

Without ferocity, without fury,

There isn’t enough money in my house

To love all my children equally.

 

None of us can look at one another.

But I am aware, as

My ears fill with the sound of the stethoscope

Of heaving sobs

Silent to the outsider

Wracking pneumatic lungs.

Kirin Gupta