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Thursday, December 27, 2007


by Mary Saracino

“In our country ultrasound is becoming a weapon of mass destruction. Instead of saving lives, what we are finding is that millions of girls are being eliminated before birth.” –Sabu George, activist & academic, as quoted in “Girls Pay Price for India ’s Preference for Boys,” Steve Herman,, March 5, 2007.

A black & white image emerges, suspended in the amniotic haze
of her womb. From the small screen in the examination room
a tiny face looms, one eye peering back, a foot, a spine,
miniature fingernails, hands too small to plea for clemency.
A son, god-willing she says when asked, although it is
illegal to use the ultrasound to determine her baby’s gender.
The candles have already been lit, supplications already sent skyward,
a boy to carry on the family name, to perform the last rites
when his father dies at some unforeseen future date,
a son to care for his widowed mother. She knows a girl brings
hardships; weddings and dowries are such a financial drain on a family.
Se prefers a boy, she tells the technician who moves the divining tool
over the swollen arc of her stomach, a child to love and cherish;
her husband too, wishes for a son. But of course they’d accept a daughter
should misfortune mar their fate. She peers at the screen,
hoping the shadow that hovers between the tiny legs is a small penis.
Questions linger in her untrained eyes; she looks away,
unable to say for sure. She can’t abide the alternative,
though she knows she must. Her husband scans the image, too,
an unspoken need settles into his tense brow. A momentary frown
claims the technician’s lips. From one pocket of her lab coat
she retrieves a piece of pink candy, “To sweeten your life,” she says,
placing the clandestine clue into the husband’s waiting palm.
He wraps his fist around the traitorous bonbon, stares at the floor.
“Perhaps next time,” he tells his wife, who chokes back tears,
already grieving the daughter who will soon be severed from her.

Mary Saracino is a novelist, poet and memoir-writer who lives in Denver , CO . Her short story, "Vicky's Secret" recently won the 2007 Glass Woman Prize. Mary's most recent novel, The Singing of Swans (Pearlsong Press 2006) was a finalist in the 2007 Lambda Literary Awards.