Home Health Nurse by Sara Backer

Home Health Nurse

His soft brown fingers explore my elbow, seeking
a sturdy vein. He calls me “Miss Sara” as if
I’m a Hollywood legend and I extend my breath
to ease the needle’s intrusion. As he tapes the shunt,
he asks if I’ve voted. Yes, two weeks ago, by mail. And you?
Three seconds—maybe four—his dark eyes looking
elsewhere before he says: I’m not a citizen.

Why am I surprised? Now, it makes sense that his parents
took quick trips to Canada. I say I wish you could vote.
Lame words in late October. He says I paid $740
to apply for citizenship. Next week it will cost $1400.

I didn’t know that, lost in the onslaught of immigration news.

I was once a legal alien in Japan. My employers guided me
through paperwork, yet I became nervous in front of officials
who checked my passport many times, looked at me, spoke
to each other, called a new person to the desk. Thousands
of yen paid, many ink stamps, but no one threatened
to lock me up or put me on a plane.

He warns me to be careful on Halloween. The virus
is mutating.
This year, I won’t open my door
to neighborhood children. Their cardboard swords
have turned to steel. Their fangs spout real blood.

He presses cotton on my puncture wound
and covers it with a bandage.

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Sara Backer’s first book of poetry, Such Luck (Flowstone Press, 2019), follows two poetry chapbooks: Scavenger Hunt (dancing girl press, 2018) and Bicycle Lotus, which won the 2015 Turtle Island chapbook award. Her honors include a 2019 Plough Poetry Prize, nine Pushcart nominations, and fellowships from the Norton Island and Djerassi resident artist programs. She holds an MFA from Vermont College of Fine Art and reads for The Maine Review. Recent and forthcoming publications include Tar River Poetry, Slant, CutBank, Lake Effect, Poetry Northwest, and Kenyon Review.

Image Credits: Hands reaching out (Crealiza clipart) to help each other symbolized by the Red Cross (pngfind) against a cold backdrop of immigration challenges—ice cubes (Marik) symbolizing ICE.