I heard something like a whisper once
in grade school, a boy's blood
thinned to water they said
as we stared at his empty seat.
When the first glass syringe
stuck to my father's arm
like an engorged tick
he smiled his lie: don't be afraid.
Then bitter grandmother, diabetic blood
so sweet, lost a little toe,
a foot, her leg, until she groaned,
let me go the day I sat beside her.
Or that first week in medical school,
the man my age, wheezing gray bones,
wife and kids holding wasted hands,
something in his lungs they murmured.
And we touched, inevitable as lovers,
my finger in a latex glove
deep inside, rubbing over and over
something hard and common as a garden stone.
Now a friend loses her glorious hair,
my mother moans without a breast,
and my hands search hidden places
something dark might live
but feel only cold through thin sheets,
a familiar whisper on my skin.
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