She lies flat as a board
and is too skinny
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
But before me,
Overlarge eyes glitter,
Under the fluorescent light of the consultorio,
And the child in front of me is full of
The mother replies
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.