Lancing the Toe

In the middle of surviving you, I sat on the sidewalk
outside the bookshop that paid me too little, sterilized a safety pin
with the flame of a lighter and stabbed it through my right
big toe. The blood blistering beneath the thick keratin flooded out
like a fountain, drenching my foot in warm plasma, and the nail
sunk down in its bed, just a little, as if it suddenly realized
it was holding its breath. When you explained I would need to
do this a few times, coaching me through it on my threadbare carpet
while the sharp end of the pin glowed like a fireplace poker,
I did not blame you, or your other women, or the desk I dropped
on my foot while picturing you kissing them. Do it now, you told me,
push hard, don’t think. I trusted you to be right about this, if nothing
else. The world went white, and for a second the shriek
of that tiny fang into the throbbing plum-black pulp demolished
all sound, but then the relief was so pure my skin sang,
shivering up from the toe to the top of my head, the way my body
would not stop responding to you. From then on I did it twice a day,
savoring the buildup, relishing the release. Each time I burned
the hot steel tip through the stiff protective shell, I could
sit on the ground, lean into something that would not give, and
watch my erythrocytes pour out to devour the oxygen,
red and voracious and free. This is to say
you are forgiven.

February 2017