- Pap Smear, and: The Mare That You Loved
They finally cornered him with test results from the unsuspecting daughter’s pap smear. It’s a vulnerable
feeling, lying on the narrow table for examination, naked except for the paper vest, open at the front for easy access and the sheet that is really a curtain: fit your feet into the metal stirrups and spread your legs, your own knees stretch out that sheet between your line of sight and the doctor inspecting and probing your genitals. The sheet is an adjective, modifying, naming the event “procedural,” “benign.”
She was off at college. A Kansas girl, active in her church back home and I imagine she’s there at the clinic to get her first prescription for birth control, she and the boyfriend shyly, responsibly edging to intercourse, now [End Page 92]
the speculum tunnels into her, the pipette swabbing her most intimate chamber, the doctor, his nurse cheery, professional, her paper vest stained at the armpits with sweat but then, it’s over, legs clamped, she’s sitting up. Alone in the room, wiping off the gel, getting dressed, she thinks of Friday night and the tender boyfriend.
It will be weeks before she learns what the swab can prove, how police compare epithelials from the walls of her womb to the semen found on the bound and strangled victims of the serial killer, her father, clinical proof of precisely what is possible in this world.
The Mare That You Loved
What She Didn’t Seem to Know: The last desperate procedure severed all nerves to that foot months ago, so her focus was the scent of spring grass sweet in her nostrils, wholly unconcerned with her awkward step, the hoof flopping aside, and her weight pressed directly on bone, the inevitable close now. [End Page 93]
What She Did Seem to Know: Moments after the needle slipped back out of her neck, the panicked cartwheeling, thrashing her bewildered eye fixed on you, who had broken the silver caul as she swam fish-fetus from the womb, you she had trusted all twenty years of her life, you who led her here to this place.
What You Can Only Hope She Knew: The ragged hum of your voice in her ear, the torn stroke of your final caress.
Christine Gelineau is the author of Remorseless Loyalty, winner of the Richard Snyder Memorial Prize, and of the forthcoming Appetite for the Divine (Both from Ashland Poetry P), and coedited French Connections: A Gathering of Franco-American Poets (Louisiana Literature P). Her poetry, essays, and reviews have appeared widely.