I place a drop upon the slide
then spread the blood along its length,
the bead smeared to a pinkish layer.
Not every day is bad, most bloods
are as they should be, the white
and red cells as portioned and populous
as the next, made luminous
and still by my microscope light.
I study what I see with an expert eye
count the cells in the feathered edge
and confirm the worst – the progress
of it there in the lens, spreading
inexorably from one cell to the next.
This woman I’ve never known
beyond her altered chromosome.
Soon she will be laid to waste
by what I spy in this Cyclops eye
she not knowing yet her fate
as she sits in a cafe somewhere perhaps
the rain drumming against the window glass
a dulling, restless metronome,
she smiling as she picks up her cup,
telling her friend it will most probably
be fine. I have tried to be
as dispassionate as the lens’ stare,
this blood work I do too far
from the living world to feel real,
protecting me from my own fear –
that if I look too closely there,
I might see my own daughter’s hair
my mother’s smile, my husband’s
glare, the blue eyes of the one I love.
Today I try but cannot escape
the mortal flaw that I reveal. I turn off
the machine to a humming click
the backlight lingering a moment
then sinking to black – like the sky
my small office window frames
and the weight of news I must givetomorrow.