Needs and Needles by Sara Backer

   Sara Backer is a New Hampshire writer whose poems  appear  this year in So to Speak, Crannóg (Ireland), Gargoyle, New Welsh Reader (UK), Rust + Moth, and many others. Her poem " Needles " appears in the Fall 2015 edition of The Intima.

Sara Backer is a New Hampshire writer whose poems appear this year in So to Speak, Crannóg (Ireland), Gargoyle, New Welsh Reader (UK), Rust + Moth, and many others. Her poem "Needles" appears in the Fall 2015 edition of The Intima.

In her personal narrative “On Schedule,” Kate Swenson writes about the anxiety of blood draws as a patient “not from fear of needles or blood, or because I worry about my test results […] but because I am watching a part of me leave myself.” There are secrets in our blood we don’t want disturbed; when blood transmutes into information, some part of the magic of human life is lost. Similarly, in Irene Mathieu’s poem “Fear of Causing Pain,” the speaker/doctor is also not afraid of needles as an object but is “afraid to harvest/a person’s blood/to separate the chaff of pain/from the possible grain of/something strange growing/there.” In both the needler and needlee, we recognize the depth of intimacy with the strangeness of the function of a needle, the body the needle enters, and the fear of bringing blood to light.

Perhaps because I identify and feel so much as Swenson and Mathieu do, I deliberately took the opposite approach in my poem “Needles.” Instead of choosing the close, personal point of view, I leave myself—or any implied speaker—out of the poem. Expanding beyond a medical context of needles, I list their disparate purposes—sewing clothes, inking tattoos, gauging gas, inflating balls—to present the needle as a remarkable two-way door, morally neutral, equally capable of doing harm or good.


Sara Backer is a New Hampshire writer whose poems appear this year in So to Speak, Crannóg (Ireland), Gargoyle, New Welsh Reader (UK), Rust + Moth, and many others. Her writing has been honored with fellowships from the Djerassi Resident Artist Program and Norton Island Artist Residency Program. Her chapbook Bicycle Lotus won the 2015 Turtle Island Poetry Prize and is forthcoming from FootHills Press. Follow her on Twitter at BackerSara or on sarabacker.com.

© 2015 Intima: A Journal of Narrative Medicine