Flu Shot

Adrian M. Schnall


Hold it like a dart.

Prepare her arm,

squeeze the skin,

then use your wrist.

She’ll feel nothing

but that gentle twist of flesh.


She looks away.

“Shall I tell you when?” I say,

smiling as I drop the used syringe

in the sharp-safe bin.

I live for that look

of disbelief.


I do not speak to her

of the debacle of ‘76.

Swine flu panic in the air,

hundreds of thousands clamoring

for the needle of protection.

In the aftermath,

two hundred with Guillain-Barre,

thirty dead.

It was worth it, the experts said,

We saved millions from the flu.


Not worth it for Jonathan,

who lived the ten worst days of his life

on life support in ICU,

nerve fibers eaten away,

ravaged by that malady.

He couldn’t talk for a week.

It took him a month to walk,

a twenty-five year old

with an old man’s limp.


He never got the shot again,

didn’t need to read the headlines.                                                               

No black plague descended in ‘76,

no swine flu,

even in those

who chose not to get stuck.


Yet I still immunize,

proselytize for it.

I examine Jonathan,

watch sadly as he limps across the room

and try to remember:

millions have been saved

in other years.


vaccination; flu; swine flu; poetry

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