Love Poem to Stephen the Phlebotomist

by Nadia Lines

How bored you are, explaining phenotypes to me.
I stammer about GCSE biology; I have forgotten T cells exist,
I have forgotten clots, platelets, osmotic pressure,

I have forgotten my birthday. You hand me another form;
like mine, your hands are small. I wonder how many times
a day you ask which arm, how many times across your life

you will request a rolled up sleeve. ‘Left,’ I say.
The lilac tourniquet clasps my tattoo and you remove
your gloves to seek a vein. Some days, my skin is suffocating.

Some days, it is remote. But here, the eye of the needle blinking,
you: talking, me: bleeding, I feel something like normalcy.
Because haven’t humans always done this? Opened our veins

to each other, watched faith trickle from the crook
of our elbows, hoping, hoping for better? You say
the way we treat the vulnerable says it all. The vials

are filling with such constancy that for the first time
in my life I love my heart. Stephen, I have never been sanguine.
But for you I split a smile and say ‘My friend Em wants some.

My blood, that is.’ You call her a freak, which is fair.
O Stephen. I have forgotten how to be empty.
I have forgotten how to be scared.