01 April 2011

Hypodermic Gun

I left my shoes
In the other room
With the rest of my clothes,
Just as I was told.
I’m not used to being barefoot
Especially on the cold tile
With everyone else's feet.

I step briefly out of
The single-file flesh line
And peer past the man backs
At that device.
At the gun.

I tried to imagine what it sounded like
Close up.
What it felt like.
Is it clean?
Shot – shot – shot – shot .
I want it to take a rest.
I don’t know the mechanics of it.
This makes me much more nervous
Than signing my name.

A signature is just a promise.
No matter how sincere and earnest,
It’s just an idea.
I hypodermic gun
Is a machine.
It’s hard, cold, needle-toothed metal
Made to inject
Something into your body
That wasn’t there before.

The gun does not need a rest
I look away.

It didn’t even feel like being
A person.
I was a body part of the line,
But not entirely indispensable
Like a single vertebrae.
The line’s muscles pushed me along
Deep in the snake body of us all.

What is in that gun?
I felt like
Something would make me woozy,
Even though deep in my ranting mind,
I know it’s just a vaccine
Full of microscopic germ corpses
To protect me.

Nothing can happen to me here
In my cold, bare feet and boxers.
They haven’t even given us
Our boots.

Prompted by Big Tent Poetry in the spirit of NaPoWriMo


  1. I like that you saved the vaccine until later in the piece. I'm left afraid for the soldier's future. This piece strikes a nerve. Well executed!

  2. @Poets Parking Lot: Thanks.

    Brenda, thank you for your [very specific] encouragement. Everything I post here is a work-in-progress, so any comments that may suggest improvements are also more than welcome. Thanks again for taking time to really read my poems!

  3. Reading this gave me a chill. I agree with Brenda that I liked wondering what was in the injection for most of the poem. Where were you. Was it real? Prison? Military? School? Or some other sci-fi place? Very eerie.

  4. Thank you, Lola. It was absolutely real. It was one of the only things that made me really nervous when I joined the military. I'm pleased that you thought it could be so many different places.

  5. Well-structured, good line and stanza breaks. I particularly like the stanza with the "single vertebrae" and the "snake body of us all". That compression of images works well. And the last stanza is such a good ending.

  6. Mr. Walker, thanks for your very particular feedback! I'm glad you enjoyed it!

  7. Michael, this is a unique look into the mind of a young person, just signed up for the military. I find the use of your comparison of the vaccination needle to a gun very effective. The last line was the kicker. Great stuff.
    Peace, Amy

  8. Thanks Amy. I'm glad you like the end. I actually intended it to keep going, but when I typed the last stanza, it seemed like I had gone far enough.
    And actually, it's not really a comparison-They use a hypodermic gun with a pistol grip. It's filled with many doses of vaccine and shoots many new soldiers one after another after another. I suppose it must use a new small needle every time.
    Anyway, thank you so much for your feedback.