He who wields the needle slides it
easily through a pock marked field
underlaid by rivers, eerie
blue, when what divulges isn’t.
The illusion of chemistry
trapped beneath my transparent skin.
I don’t know if my reptile
mind understands the leak, but it’s
wary of the warm snake draped
across my arm. Even without
looking, I feel it’s alive. The
temperature against my skin
throbs in that narrow span between
inanimate and fever heat:
a captured mammal, infant hand, hot
breath on skin. It is life
imprisoned in an external artery.
Pinned by the needle, I gaze up.
Rain lands on the skylight, runs in
rivulets with other drops, to
roof, to gutter, eventually
to earth. As I watch, the fall
is not enough to fill a vase
for roses. White coats swim around
the room, checking that I hold my
heartbeat in my hand. I recall, George
Washington died this way, with
well-meaning leaches suckling his veins.
And I recall the bill for eight pints
of blood. You, pooled
ink red on the operating
theater floor. Eight pints of eight
lives pumped in to weigh you down, to
keep you here. I feel my leaving
softly, usher it with selfish
prayer for entry into someone
else’s lover, to keep him here.
Christie Isler, Washington, USA