Blue Daughters

There are blue daughters
my daughter cannot save.
Hanging from hand knit scarf
and pink bunk bed,
Found by little sister
after Pokemon and macaroni;
Or carried in on Saturday
by a running father
Damning Monday when
his daughter’s flu turns
Hot pneumonia,
limping sepsis. Pulseless.

Fast, I see her humming
over small bodies,
Measuring every nuance:
pupil, grimace, shade
Of skin, curl of leg.
At once a warm machine
Pumping, hands I have held
become small hearts.
Her voice hopeful, urging
sweeties, honeys, kiddos
To breathe, open eyes,
cry in confusion
At the sterile room,
the crowded bedroom
Full of stuffed bears,
Barbies, strangers,
Parents in the corner
of the nightmare.

When thirty minutes pass,
drops form
On her upper lip,
inside her dark blue shirt.
She cycles in and out
with her best friends
Who’ve learned
to massage death in turns,
With cheers and sighs
for fragile victories,
Knowing eyes for the dark
unmooring dawning.

Hours of engine hands
and pulsing drugs,
Electric volts of science,
And existential prayer
may be not enough.
Personnel wipe
their lowered faces, pause;
Stiffly leave the room
where plastic tubes,
Blood-stained gauze,
tiny clothes litter the floor.

My daughter, ever tidy as a girl,
knows the simple
Magic of mundane order:
cleans the mess,
Lifts the child from floor
to lower bunk, arranges
Silken hair around a bruised neck,
brushes wisps
From the blue girl’s
precious forehead.
The crush-faced mother
crawls in bed
With her still daughter,
and my daughter goes, must
Go. Tall. Departs the room,
the house, the hospital.
Calls me, bright voice cracking,
on the drive home.


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