Phlebotomist's block

Adam Possner

normally for him at least

the process

is relatively painless

normally in his skilled hands

life's essence

is captured easy and free

this time is different though

he is stuck

at a loss for where to start

his subject is a woman

on chemo

lymphoma at thirty-nine

her once youthful and bold veins

have withered

shadows of their former selves

he searches and prods both arms

even feet

but he can conjure nothing

where is that line he wonders

that one line

from which all else will follow

he wishes she would tell him

you'll find it

but instead she looks away

the seconds pass painfully

like pressure

mounting from a tourniquet

until with stainless-steel quill

bevel up

he takes a plunge—his best shot

hopeful in the end to have

more than stains

on crumpled pieces of white


Correspondence: Adam Possner, George Washington University, General Internal Medicine, Medical Faculty Associates, 2150 Pennsylvania Ave NW, Suite 2-105 South, Washington, DC 20037; e-mail: apossner{at}


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