Dianne Silvestri ~

The corridors seethe with nocturnal predators,
their voices low.

My door latch coughs, a figure hisses,
I’ve come to draw blood,

wrenches my arm like a lamb shank,
rasps it with alcohol, plunges her spike,

pops one after another color-coded
rubber-stoppered vial into the sheath,

unplugs each loaded one to add
to the crimson log pile weighting my thigh,

steals more, it seems, than ample sample
of the provisional liquor of my life.

About the poet:

Dianne Silvestri worked as an academic dermatologist while raising her four children. Her medical practice was abruptly interrupted when she was diagnosed with acute myelogenous leukemia. “Chemotherapy and a stem-cell transplant have allowed me to engraft my poetry avocation as an encore career.” Author of the chapbook Necessary Sentiments, she has had poems published in various journals, including The Healing Muse, American Journal of Nursing, The Worcester Review, Poetry South, The Main Street Rag, The Examined Life Journal and Families, Systems & Health.

About the poem:

“This poem grew out of the first forty-day hospital stay of my life-changing illness.”

Poetry editors:

Johanna Shapiro and Judy Schaefer

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10 thoughts on “Phlebotomist”

  1. Marian Feinberg

    Thank you so much for this poem. While I have known wonderful phlebotomists, particularly the techs who worked in Monte Peds OPD who approached the kids with gentle humor, I have more recently had experience with an evil vampire during a rehab incarceration the last few months. Coming round at 4:30 AM,wrenching my arm and leaving me always with a hematoma, I felt such a kinship with Dianne, who is able to express the experience so vividly. Be well, my sister.

  2. Ronna Edelstein

    Phlebotomists are my least favorite people because needles scare me a lot. However, I value the work they do. And I thank you for using such specific details to paint such a vivid picture of these essential medical professionals.

  3. I absolutely love every line of this piece, right from the beginning: “The corridors seethe with nocturnal predators.”
    Brilliant writing.

  4. Having descended into the healthcare system when the drawing of blood is a regular part of my life, I loved Dianne’s vivid description of the process. She reminds me of the life that continues in those glass cylinders and leads my caregivers to possibilities for my future.

  5. Dr. Louis Verardo

    Your poem was so very well done; I found myself visualizing the events of your blood draw as if I were present in your hospital room. While I imagine your medical training provides the verisimilitude, your facility with language provides the spark which creates such stunning poetry. What a pleasure to end my medical day in the company of an insightful colleague; thank you.

  6. “nocturnal predators” … “hisses” … “wrenches” … “rasps” … “plunges her spike” …

    I’ll be curious to learn if other Pulse readers were as discomfited by this poem as I was, especially on this site.

    I felt better after I read the “About Us” section and reflected: “Works published in Pulse—voices from the heart of medicine are selected by its editors in order to foster personal reflection and dialogue. Views and opinions expressed belong to the authors who wrote them. They do not necessarily reflect the views of the editors or Pulse’s supporting or partnering organizations.”

    I concluded it’s good to be reminded sometimes that even our ‘safe places’ are not always safe.

    PS Dr. Silvestri, even if given ten years, I would be unable to paint such a vivid picture with only 73 words. 😉

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