Giving Blood

The quick pinprick
                        opens the smallest
            window in my skin,
the needle tapped
                        into my arm to begin

            the long glide
into the surrogate
                        vein, liquid poppy
            coiling the tube.

A curtain away,
                        a man is absolutely
            delirious, at least

that’s how it sounds
                        from his protest
            that he don’t want
the blood of—
you fill in the blank:

            a spic, a rag head, a fag—
to pollute his straight, white heart.
                        He works up a storm
            of curses, is all

scold & back-talk,
                        & heads start to turn
            when he threatens

to jet for the door,
                        but instead—
            he’s lost his breath—
he collapses
                        & I hear the cot

            take his weight.
Even from here,
                        my arm cool
            with alcohol,

the artery swollen,
                        the pint siphoned off
            to its pouch,

I can tell he’s in bad
                        shape—I’m thinking car
            accident, more than a brawl—
& before I know it
                        part of my life’s been

            wheeled away
to be bar-coded,
                        refrigerated, then drawn
            into another body

where it’ll flood
                        muscles, remember
            how to glide

in its favorite commute—
                        the u-turn at fingertip,
            the tug back
to the heart. Repeat.
                        Repeat. Hands off,

            the man yells. I wasn’t
dragged into this hole
                        to be
infected!
            I walked in here

to give away
                        the most valuable
            thing I hold,

to spread myself out
                        so I’d walk the street
            & wonder if part of me
was with the girl
                        on the bench with angel

            inked across her shoulders
or maybe the man straddling the Avenue
                        swinging his cane like
            he’s gonna hit the next cab

out of the park. But for all I know
                        my blood’ll pulse
            through this man’s sour tongue,

& for a moment I want
                        that bag of my life
            back. Then I recall
how my blood
                        isn’t my own, how—

            transfusion after transfusion
at birth—I was delivered
                        into embrasure,
            a mix of race

& creed colliding
                        in my cells. So now
            I want that crowd

sluicing inside this man,
                        want transfer
            & mixture unending
until—at least in our cells—
                        we won’t be able

            to tell who’s who,
until we’re all gliding
                        each other’s veins.

–from Bone Music

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