I walk through white hallways, all
leading to rooms where people are told
they will live or die. The cysts in my breasts
may or may not kill me, but I will learn them
on the same screen that holds my daughter
in the uterine sac, her profile
hawkish. All things are imaginary
until we can touch them. I am touched
outside and in. The technician
runs a wand over my belly, my breasts.
If not for the fetus that I mistaked
for early menopause in my early forties,
I wouldn’t have discovered the potential
for threats that live just under the surface
of my skin at all times, lurking
as though a thousand clocks. Some women
say fertility ticks inside the body,
but I’ve felt the end of time rise
since I was a child and all was dark. Everywhere
that the wand travels my body, pain
follows. I swallow the urge to cry out.
I will wallow only when there is reason. In this room,
the walls are dotted with butterflies. Real
butterflies have a life span of one week.
My daughter is trapped in the chrysalis
transecting yesterday and tomorrow. I need her
to live longer than a week. How I will survive
after she leaves me, I don’t know. Barren,
perhaps. Stripped down to the teeth.



Chelsea Dingman