Binghamton, NY

Lonely and a little bored,
I used to donate blood every eight weeks
at the Red Cross across the street
from my studio apartment.
Eyes skyward, arm shot straight, I’d sigh
as a butterfly needle settled on my skin,
its plastic wings drawn to a vein
in my forearm: a thin
river, ghost blue. And then —
warmth. Like an oven turned low, a slow
kindling beneath dark winter clothes.
Afterwards I’d pocket Oreos,
fig bars, a few extra juice boxes for later
that night, yet leave feeling lighter,
like I’d done something no one
could diminish. I still donate
here downstate, but last spring, after
the butterfly’s sting, I blacked out
in a synagogue basement —
my soaked back on a gurney
as the plastic sack filled. Nowadays
I can’t tell who I’m meant to help,
or how to help, or if anything really helps
anymore, though I guess that’s me
feeling lazy and drained
while, up north, between two
frozen rivers, a version of my youth
reenters that waiting room
beside a rusted diner and an off-brand
department store, lies back, and believes
he has so much more to give.