FALL 2007

George Northrup

In the shock of the doctor’s expression
she recognized she had asked
the right question, the one
he was not prepared
to answer.
As he reached for words
to steady the moment—
the promising research underway,
the advantages of early detection—
she knew he was leading her
into the zone of his own safety,
inviting her not to contemplate just yet
the prowling future.
So she repeated the question,
and he fell back
on other bright evasions—
we will do our very best,
no one can tell with certainty the outcome—
but she fixed him
in her narrowed eyes
until he felt like a specimen
under her microscope,
exposed by her scrutiny,
defenseless at this intrusion.

So when she asked him a third time,
his tongue forgot all science
and the healer’s optimistic watchwords.
His head began to shake,
eyes looked away, trembling lips
wordlessly confessing the answer.

A white coat stammering syllables,
he offered her the shame
of having nothing to offer
except himself as the registry
for their collapsing hopes.
And she thanked him for that.

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