hemoglobin

For four months I lived

with three different strangers’

blood in me. All one night

I watched three people drip into my arm.

I didn’t name them. Then I did: Owen, Gloria,

Oliver. I got to know them

so well we could communicate.

Their blood plowed through me.

Now I forget them all, but the signs

are coming back—motion sickness on the bus,

dizziness climbing out of the pool. I check them off

like a doctor’s list, think,

My hemoglobin’s probably at 9, now 8.

I take iron for control and think every time

about letting my count go back

down, about letting myself come in

and out of the world. Sometimes

I want to remember the people whose blood

I shared, but my body didn’t know it was borrowing,

didn’t think of ownership. It drank and drank.

Bess Cooley won the 2017 Mississippi Review Poetry Prize. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in Mississippi Review, Columbia Poetry Review, Toad, and Forklift, Ohio, among others. She lives in Indiana and teaches at Purdue University.

 
Bess Cooley
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