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Synthesis/Regeneration 6   (Spring 1993)

For the Women of Brownsville and Matamoros

by Diana Balot Frank, Lehigh Valley Greens

A most personal invasion
seeping slowly into the skin, the blood, the lungs, the tissue

Thinking of the women of Brownsville and Matamoros, I remember precautions
taken preparing for childbirth: vitamins, exercise, no coffee, no alcohol,
always wear the seatbelt (no right to take risks with someone else's life).

Buying protection from the harsh and bumpy world: socket plugs, childproof locks
for the kitchen cabinets, totfinder stickers in the bedroom window,
a gate for the stairs, the car seat (necessary by law).

Reading for future emergencies: In case she chokes, in case she falls,
in case he ever gets impaled!

Worrying about the future: If it's a boy, what will we do about football?
about the draft? If it's a girl, how will we prepare her to live every
day of the rest of her life safely and sanely in this brutal world?

"No, doctor, no history of birth defects on either side—not in
this generation, not in the last or even the one before..."

And after being told, suddenly remembering a scene in a
documentary; a reference to acquired immune deficiency
among the whales. Scientists standing in a small boat
watching a female beluga swimming close. "Why?" they ask,
"Perhaps to show us the deformity on her calf's spine?"

This is no plague from an angry god.

This is no sign of justice from heaven to punish the wicked.

In 1993 we breathe, eat, work, and live with death so the few may live in unimagined splendor;

And we dream, as the infants of Brownsville and Matamoros will never dream,
of a new tomorrow.

Seventeen babies conceived in Brownsville, Texas between January 1989 and January 1991 were born without brains. Thirty babies conceived during 1991 were born either without brains or with spina bifida. Both the Center For Disease Control and the Texas Department of Health are investigating why neural tube defects are occuring at a rate six times the "normal" US incidence. Residents suspect a link to the maquiladora factories across the river from Brownsville, in Matamoros Mexico.

—Excerpted from Multinational Monitor, March, 1992

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