Listen:

Because there are no disposal laws for syringes
in this state, I keep a bleach jug packed with syringes.

Once, in a dry-lipped fugue, I dropped two pens
in a full one; now the laundry is blood-fracked with syringes.

Even so, I believe it’s clean coming out of the dryer.
The white-coated vampire states it as fact: syringes

rinse the surgeries away. She’s got a house to feed,
where tiny mouths drool fluid like primed syringes.

I’m not dying yet, but she wants to be sure.
She asks me to deliver a ransom of syringes.

Labs, she calls them: needle-nosed hounds dispatched
by her keyboard; she doesn’t actually handle syringes.

Instead, she sends me to a different wing. The phlebotomists
thump the anti-coagulant in my syringes:

stop telling people that ain’t your hair when you bought it.
They pull blood but inject beauty—compassionate syringes.

On the drive home, the guardrails look like casket lowers;
lane markings, a mortician’s stitch; the cars blunt syringes

hunting out home, the vena cava, in which I brine
a life, my flesh as seasoned by syringes

as my mother’s holiday turkeys. I’m suspended between
every ancestor who lived or treasoned with syringes.

Their ghosts OD in my dreams; riddled with holes,
they beg me to remember their names. I ask which syringes

could bring them back to life. I awaken
to track marks under my nose. A new plot of syringes

dampens on the front steps. I am destined to infuse
survival with meaning, like honey clotting in syringes.

Illustration: Ansellia Kulikku.

Destiny Birdsong

Destiny O. Birdsong is a Louisiana-born poet, fiction writer, and essayist who lives and writes in Nashville, Tennessee. Her work has either appeared or is forthcoming in African American Review, Best New Poets 2018, The Cambridge Companion to Transnational American Literature, storySouth, and elsewhere. She has received support from Cave Canem, The Ragdale Foundation, The MacDowell Colony, Jack Jones Literary Arts, and the Tin House Summer Workshop (2018). She earned both her MFA and PhD from Vanderbilt University, where she currently works as a research coordinator.