Touch: The Journal of Healing


Cell Count

    by Arlene L. Mandell

An ordinary woman stares

into a mirror for telltale signs, sees only

blurred face, blank eyes, soft hair

hears her own sensible voice saying

fifty-five is too soon to die.  Later,

her first grandchild whispers raccoon,

white-tailed deer as she turns

the pages of his picture book

wondering how many pills she'll need

to end it fast before she's too weak

and if she's strong enough.  Someone

in a laboratory counting red cells

has found hers insufficient.  Each night

as the fist squeezes her heart,

she sees ashes scattered in the woods.

More blood extracted from bruised arms,

more waiting, then the call promptly at nine

but the nurse says he’s with a patient

more waiting while her grandson recites

mountain lion, leopard, cougar, all predators

who relish living flesh.  Finally he phones,

laboratory error, cell count normal,

still one of his healthiest patients.

She nuzzles the little boy's ear,

as once more her heart is squeezed

by the fist before it releases her.

© 1998 Arlene L. Mandell

* Previously published in Mediphors: A Literary Journal of the Health Professions

Arlene L. Mandell, a retired English professor, has been widely published in 16 anthologies and more than 300 newspapers and magazines, including Good Housekeeping, The New York Times, The Dickens, True Romance, and Tiny Lights.


Copyright © 2010

Touch: The Journal of Healing

All rights reserved.