Poem - “Hirudo Medicinalis”

Martha Serpas

It is hard to be misunderstood. 

And how many of us get vindication 

after a century or so?

I mistook the little bloodsucker 

for a wad of gauze as it whirled 

from the sailor’s spliced thumb. 

It became an iridescent helix, 

a liquid amber’s leaf 

dangling through a day-long 

spring and fall and spring. 

Have you ever taken God’s name 

in vain? Forgotten all your Latin 

but opiate and parasite, believe 

it’s God who eats at our table? 

The sailor calls his savior Fat Albert. 

“C’mon, there you go,” he soothes. 

“Fix me all over, fix my heart, fix everything 

around me.” What carries us forward, 

when I enter the room, 

is the blankness – the sheets, 

the walls, the page. 

Language itself is prophylactic. 

It avails us, suspends the hours 

for us, inscribes our intentions, 

seams the ordinary, provides 

for the whiting in which, in this case, 

the sailor and I can make our poem. 

His poem is about wholeness and joy. 

Mine is about the illusion of linear 

progress, about Albert spinning 

his symbiotic segments as he waits 

in his salty pyx, both host and communicant, 

the three of us chanting the same poem.