Literary Mama writing about the many faces of motherhood
Sweat Test for Cystic Fibrosis

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What to call this battery box, wires dangling:
Electrodes? A polygraph. A torture device.
The usual white linoleum in this small room
Hot as a summer attic and on a metal table,
The box that my daughter Amani names Pirate,
Saying it looks like a face with an eye patch.

The nurse doesn't name it. She explains,
"The sweat sample's collected by using liquid
On a patch of skin." She touches my daughter's
Forearm. "Painless. Tingles with a weak electrical
Current." She attaches the electrodes.

Serena, my younger daughter, spins
Around and around, chanting, "Dizzy. Dizzy."
The machine hums like an electric razor.
I brush Amani's hair from her damp forehead.
Stroking her hair, my fingers do their usual work,
Finding tangles and gently working strands free.

How rarely I notice myself breathing or
Holding my breath. Last night I was thinking
About the soul, its papery home.
Walking in the house I know so well
I can navigate in the dark, I thought:
All that I love most moves nearby.
One child snoring. The other quiet as a pillow.
I freeze in her doorway. Wait. Then see
Her chest rise, a small wave.

Malaika King Albrecht is the grateful mother of two daughters. Her poems have recently been or are forthcoming in Kakalak: an Anthology of Carolina Poets, The Pedestal Magazine, The Bedside Guide to No Tell Motel—Second Floor, and Poetry Southeast. Examples of her poems can be found online in Shampoo Poetry and on the North Carolina Arts Council website. She is the co-editor of Redheaded Stepchild.

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