Ivory Fu

One time when I was too small to

Remember what year it was

Or how to write my name in cursive

And the Florida sky was heavy with rain

clouds, I hung upside down

from the monkey bars, my hair

tracing circles in the dirt, swinging,

dizzy —

The humid metal was slick, and I fell and

knocked out my tooth,

busted my lip.

 

Blood trailed down my chin,

Red dripping from a swollen

empty tooth socket,

And I ruined that shirt I liked so much,

blood staining the collar.

I remember the taste of

metal in my mouth, stuck

my tongue in the open wound where

something

had been replaced

by nothing.

 

I remember when I was a teenager,

One summer that seemed so long

I tried

To jump a fence and

Ripped open my leg flesh on

A nail, falling short.

The wound gaped,

The blood ran through my pants,

Leaking from holes in the cloth.

 

You put your shirt on it to stop it, but

No matter how much you pressed,

Each time you lifted your hand, a violent

stream would flow.

 

I remember that was the first time

I was sewn shut, my opening

Too open to heal on its own.

 

I thought of that time a man

on a bicycle — distracted —

smashed through your windshield

head first, his

face contorted, his life

leaking out.

 

I remember the hot pavement

glossy and red, shards

of glass reflecting sun, flashing

lights receding.

I wondered if some stranger

had given him their blood that day,

life. Did they know

what his trauma felt like?

 

I imagined that man

blissfully unaware now — drinking coffee

at a café, kissing children

on cheeks —

that part of someone else

had snaked through

his veins, visited every

part of him, and

made him whole again.

If he knew,

was he grateful?

Do his wounds

Remember?

 

When I was older,

I remembered this man, his blood

In the sun,

And thought of the nail in the fence,

My missing tooth,

My bloodied pants,

and somehow the idea of

giving something so vital

and human

to someone else, a stranger,

a part of me to them,

made me think of my openness,

of openings too

open to heal on their own —

a chance to save someone

from emptying.

 

I pulled my sleeve up,

Ready for the pinch of the needle.

 

But the woman asked me how I fucked,

how frequently.

I told her my truth, and although she told

me it’s just policy, she said

it’s just the way things are,

I left thinking that

My fag blood was dirty,

That what flowed in me

was unusable.

 

I thought of the fence and the nail,

The metal taste, my swollen lips,

And the soiled shirt,

the ripped pants

drying red —

and how my blood was the same color

the same metal taste

the same vital flow

as everyone else, I thought,

and yet somehow mine

was different,

useless. Fag blood.

 

I thought of the man on the bike,

His wound open to the sun,

His blood mixing with road dirt and

Car glass, but not my blood —

No, not my blood.

My blood was fag blood,

And couldn’t mix with his.

 

It’s just policy, she had said.

It’s just the way things are, she said.