As someone who works with words some days and in medicine on others, I have always enjoyed the names of the human blood group systems. While most of us are familiar with A, B, and O nomenclature, there are over thirty other systems, mostly describing “rare blood types”—those that could dangerously react to a transfusion.
As best I can tell, these names were haphazardly given and it was years before hematologists realized all these systems dealt with proteins attached to the red cells. Instead of standardizing the naming system, these wonderful names were kept.
In addition to those in my poem, "Speed Dating by Type," there are others: Lutheran, Scianna, Colton, Chido, Knops, and Raph, to name a few. It was late in my work on this poem that I thought about speed-dating, and how I could play with this idea, blending two unrelated subjects. Something echoed in these two concepts to me.
Woods Nash did something similar with his piece, "Close to the Flowers: Notes from a Tanzanian Orphanage" (Intima, Fall 2013). He beautifully contrasts orphans with flowers, the foil coming to a conclusion in his last lines:
The youngest girl approaches the fence,
nosing a flower that blooms
Unobtrusively from a vine.
She turns aside, pollen on her lips.
Here, the children and the flowers merge the last image, both representing life. I think my poem also deals with life: blood circulates through our bodies ceaselessly, and in our busy world, speed-dating is used to begin relationships. Both display the motion of life at different levels. I think, though, that Nash was more successful: Both of his choices have a long tradition of representing life. In addition, the pollen on the face of the child says so much: life continues, despite the challenge of our circumstances.
Doug Hester is an anesthesiologist at Vanderbilt University. He is also an MFA student at Murray State University. His poem, "Speed Dating By Type" appears in the Spring 2015 Intima.
© 2015 Intima: A Journal of Narrative Medicine