“You can do it, we trust you,”

My resident tells me, but

I don’t trust myself.

I don’t trust that I will prick my patient


And see waxy mahogany climb

The silvery hollow thorn

I hold like a pen.

I hold a ballpoint pen

And practice my movement,

Charting landmarks on my wrist:

The styloid process of the radius, a cliff

On the lateral edge of human wrist,

The tendon of the flexor carpi radialis, tense

But tensile like the Q’eswachaka,

And in between and under,

The winding, pulsating river from which I will draw.

I ink in my wrist and my memory

The path of minimal pain.

Because I’ve seen the paths of maximal pain,

Where the beveled steel carved tunnels into the flesh,

Making faces grimace as if crucified.

In my patient’s face I see fear or my fear

Because my hands are trembling,

Because she knows I’m the student,

Because I’m shaking sharp metal

At a 45-degree angle to her wrist but

I trust myself.

I trust my intelligence that gave me this white coat to wear,

My compassion that made me memorize the landmarks,

That also made me tremble.


A flash of red lightning for me,

Reassurance to her,

And relief for us.

Light at the end of the tunnel I made through

The path of minimal pain.