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Giving Blood

After a long, ordinary day,

with its ordinary dose of frustration and doubt,

I stop in the afternoon at the Student Lounge

where the Bloodmobile has deployed

its people in white coats, and small folding beds,

and the blue boxes that they fill

with bags of blood, and cool them.

I fill out the forms, testifying

that I am not a drug addict,

nor have I exchanged drugs for sex

in the past ninety days,

nor have I lived in Somalia, Nigeria, Congo, or Cameroon

in the past two years,

nor have I had sex in any of those countries,

nor with anyone from them.

Checking all those No's makes me feel

that my life's a little dull,

but I wonder if I'm being entirely truthful

when I check No for chest pains,

wondering if the ache I feel much of the time

in the region of the heart

qualifies, but I check No there too,

I declare myself healthy,

and go to the table for the preparatory finger-prick

and one last chance to confess unfitness

by putting the sticker in the ominous box

that says, "Do not use my blood."

Now comes the swabbing with iodine

in the crook of my arm, and the needle jabbing,

the blood-taker expertly inserting it in my vein,

we chat as she goes about

her mundane yet profound daubing and stabbing,

better if the blood-taker is a woman, and somewhat attractive,

but OK, casual and oddly intimate, no matter who it is.

I squeeze the small rubber ball every five seconds.

"Good flow," she tells me.

I like the sound of that. I wish my students

would say that to me on the way out of class: "Good flow."

And it is very peaceful lying here among donors,

no one asking anything more from me

than my blood. It is calm, nowhere else to go,

just lie here and let it flow,

blood curving down through a clear tube.

I look over the side and see the bag,

and am surprised by how dark a red it is, not scarlet,

but dark as the blood of dark cherries,

When the bag is full, she unjabs me

and places the gauze on the spot and has me hold it there,

her every move and instruction

clean and competent. Blood-letting

is rarely this neat, nor as useful. She bandages me.

I rise from the cot and go over to a table

where a smiling old woman offers me juice.

I accept her gift, and say thank you, and sit and sip,

gazing around at the quiet encampment,

the place of calm blood,

and get up and go out, back to the other world.

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