--For uncrossmatched blood, the doctor must sign.
I said, It's for a baby! Stabbed in utero! I'll sign for the doctor.
--You mean forge it? Forget it.
The woman behind the blood bank counter then tapped on the page
with her index finger, with her salon-painted nail, tuff as an
escutcheon--tiny gold griffin on a field of carmine. O she had a
--Physician's signature, she said.
--Where's your supervisor?
--I am the supervisor. And I'm not losing my job 'cause a you.
And since no pity could move her, nor rank, nor threat, and a legal
signature meant lost minutes, and since the baby was preemie, the
baby was shocky, and it was four in the morning, gall of the night, I
saw fit to go crazy.
--Lose your job? Who'd want it? I got two babies up there on vents
already, and now this one, surprise! The mother walks into the ER,
collapses, with multiple stab wounds, belly fulla blood, but when they
take her to the OR and open her up there's this twenty-eight-week
fetus inside. So they STAT-page us and the shit hits--OK? But you
know why I like it? You get an admission, that crazy first hour,
everybody works together, everybody helps you out, and you reach a
point--not out of the woods, but you're getting there, you feel it--
and somebody cracks a joke. You look up--you all laugh. That
moment. Help me, I said.
She turned her back. Walked away. On the wall someone had stuck a
IT HAS COME TO THE ATTENTION OF THE MANAGEMENT THAT
EMPLOYEES EXPIRING ON THE JOB ARE FAILING TO FALL DOWN.
ANYONE WHO REMAINS DEAD IN AN UPRIGHT POSITION WILL BE
DROPPED FROM THE PAYROLL.
Then she was back. Plunked down two pints of blood.
--Sign, she said.
So I signed, I forged, I grabbed the two units, uncrossmatched blood,
color of garnets, color of beets, hugged the blood to my chest and I
ran all three flights and I ran, never tired, the talker, the forger, I ran
with the gorgeous, ran with the anonymous, ran with the cold dark blood.
smell like castile soap, thin
alkaline scent of babies' hair,
and the reek of black tobacco.
short for a man. Eye to my
eye level. You point to your forehead,
a crescent scar like mine.
less we talk the more we understand,
the way my brother at the age of three spoke
only the language of twins, with the eyes,
My mother used me to translate,
obedient girl, yanking me outside where he clutched
a tree trunk, awkward, his plump
to the bark. I said: Mama,
he doesn't want to ride in the car.
We got hit. Broadside. I woke up
and alone in the dark, one
cut here, over my eye. Absurd.
At three years old, my brother was dead.
it means when I miss him,
sticks like a bone in the throat. And you
you stand on this raining street
and imagine the sea in Bahia,
the North American wind is filling your eyes.
recognize your eyes. Maybe
because you are exiled you can talk
without talk. Like him. Like a twin.
1993, acrylic and sand on paper on wire mesh,
12 x 7 inches.
see more work by Sheila Rotner
BEATS HIS TUTOR AT SCRABBLE
Myra counts fifteen cows and Alfredo counts nine,
how many more cows did Myra count?
counts on his fingers.
I wish I could stay here 'til morning, he says--cool,
Thirteen, sixth grade. All this week
he's been up late. Lip swollen and split. I have nightmares,
falling. Pours out a Scrabble shower of blond wood Chiclets.
Crow-black hair, square competent hands. Two grades behind.
points for a Z, Baltazar. I spell PASS.
He spells ZAP on the Triple Word Score, has to multiply by three.
tell your mom you can't sleep?
--She lets me lie on the sofa and watch TV.
spell ZOUNDS--God's wounds, a Shakespearean oath:
Zounds, I was never so bethumpt with words.
doesn't forget where he's from, how beautiful it is
and how fraught. In a flurry of Spanish he spells
then GRITO then spells I GET UP AT FIVE TO
DOWN TO THE 14TH AND V, HAVE IT HOME FOLDED
DAD WAKES UP
MOM IS ALREADY DONE TO WORK.
I spell DID HE BUST YOUR LIP
odder the letter, the higher the score.
He spells I WANT TO STAY HERE 'TIL THE NIGHT PUTS ITS
IN THE AIR
spell what you like--you rub them like luck,
the polished wood suave as a horse's neck.
goof around--propped in your eye sockets, you squint
like smiling against the sun on the skirts of the mountains,
your grandmother's face, calm, waking you up.
On the words she would sing, and the music not separate from them.
nurses to hold him, this four-year-old who kicks me
crazy in the belly--six months pregnant but ha!
I've got the needle--the Measles-Mumps-Rubella.
Child, it stings like hell.
to me, my little immunized enemy--
I'll take a bruise from you
before I'll see another kid like the one carried through the clinic
at the end of shift in his father's arms, seizing
The father's shirt is
black with sweat
is praying in Mexican
mal, I try to get a line in, Mother of God, intractable
Get him over to St. Luke's
in the ambulance, he codes, and then, in the ER
with the furious swirl of personnel, crash cart rumbling up, curtains
snatched to shield him from the drive-bys and the drunks,
the boy expired.
He never got his shots.
walk out, dark blonde, into the sun that will scald you red
and bleach you hair to tungsten burning, drive the dusty valley
irrigated fields. Bad counterfeit. Too green.
young bones green, unripe, gronjo
from the old Teutonic root--
Untrained. Green. Freshly killed.
His young bones green and full of marrow.
at work there in the rows, hands stretched out to pick a
beefsteak tomato at the end of season when they strip the plants clean
whether the fruit is ripe or not.
they catch me--who cares? You should see
her eyes when I slap fat salmon on the scale and price it
Catfish. So she likes me, who wouldn't--but hey,
I'm not tall enough for her, and B: I'm hefty.
I can be subtle. Once I saw her on the bus,
my heart jumped like a trout. I jumped up to give her
my seat--this wino took it and passed out. I don't know
her name, like some dream where you try to yell Portia!
Miranda! Take my seat, all warmed up!
But the bus was packed with dirtballs who shoved
her in the aisles. She never saw me. She's not pretty,
really, but she slays you with those black
Man overboard. Like you have to see her when she comes
to the shop, tired, alone, ordering one lousy catfish,
lugging so many books she can't find
her change. And how her face changes when she sees
Waring is the author of two poetry collections: Refuge (University
of Pittsburgh Press, 1990), which won the Associated Writing Programs'
Award in 1989 and was cited by Publishers Weekly as one of the best
books of 1990; and Dark Blonde (Sarabande Books, 1997), which
won the Larry Levis Prize in 1998.
Published in Volume 4, Number 3, Summer 2003.
To read more by this author:
Belle Waring: DC Places Issue