I'm lying back on a raised medical bed, on those sterile white pillows and
a sheet of paper, the consistency of those protective sheets in public restrooms,
between my body and the - what is this? vinyl? - surface
heart palpitating like I've just confessed my love to some cute person
I want the nurse to slow down, talk me through my fear.
She tells me to take calming breaths
As if that ever worked
I want to hyperventilate until I can't anymore
but she won't understand, and I'm afraid to take up space
I look away, here comes the pinch, I tell myself:
It's just a mosquito bite! It's over in a few seconds and she's
smoothly applying a band aid
Later, in the car, I will talk to these dead diseases:
"Welcome to my body, tetanus, diphtheria, whooping cough.
We're going to work together.
And welcome too, all the strange chemical additives that I don't even know the names of.
I've been scared of you in the past, and I am still a little afraid, but I know I am strong, I am resilient.
I can handle this."
I sense my white blood cells accumulating in my right upper arm
and though some would say they are going into battle
I see a graceful dance
Tetanus runs across stage in a black tutu leaping
into the arms of a macrophage who
twirls her around
into the arms of an awaiting T-cell
Diphtheria poises in gold lamé,
surrounded by a quartet of en pointe B lymphocytes
circling ever closer
Pertussis, easily the most
elegant creature on stage, dripping
in blue ribbons, nose haughtily arched
to the high ceiling
dips and swoons
in harmony with the entire ensemble
Receiving that serum in my arm
was one piece of a spell,
a charm to carry me safely
to another side of the world, and back
Every time my muscles have ached since then
I've felt happy, giddy,
picturing myself in the jungle,
I didn't know that I would be attuning to a longer spell
10 years they say, of protection from rusty metals.
I don't often invoke the unstable magic of western medicine
but this time, I can feel its Power.