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
© 2015 Intima: A Journal of Narrative Medicine