How many times have I said, Yes, it’s still early;
how many times asked, Are you sure?—
then rattled all the options off,
speaking calm but quick, as we were taught?
How many times have I turned the ultrasound away
to hide the moving fetus from a woman’s eyes?
How many times measured the womb,
a soft, half-filled balloon between my palms,
and for that moment held the embryo
for whom the only human touch was mine?
How many times heard the suction’s growl;
how many times emptied out the clotted jar?
And how often signed the forms, washed the blood
and walked a woman to the door?
If in a dream the children all appear to me,
a kindergarten of the torn away,
whatever will I say?

First Night at the Cheap Hotel

Tonight, the moon is almost full, its glow filtered
through my window’s small, square screen.
Down the hall, a man coughs and coughs.
There are women’s voices too, tinny, high,
like a sound from childhood,
the fluted, aluminum milk bottle caps
Mother pierced and jangled on a string.
In my room, the middle note of the air conditioner
and something caught inside the fan, rattling—no, crackling—
like the crackling of air under skin, crepitus.
Being here is like being sick in a hospital ward
without the lovely, muffling glove of illness.
In hospital, I would be drowsy, drugged into a calm
that accepts the metal door’s clang,
the heavy footfall right outside my door.
All these would be proof of life,
and there would be a nurse too, who would
hold my wrist, counting and nodding,
only a silhouette in the dark.
As my mother did, she’d hold her finger to her lips,
saying shhh, shhh, and, like a child,
feverish, safe,
I would close my eyes, and sleep.

Cortney Davis is a nurse practitioner at a women's health
clinic in Danbury, Conn. As a writer, Davis has garnered
an NEA Poetry Fellowship and two poetry grants from the
Connecticut Commission on the Arts. Her latest poetry
collection is Leopold's Maneuvers. Most recently, her
essay was showcased on NPR.

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