top of page

Content Warning: blood, menstruation, fertility, needles

Laura Warner Cup 2 Ink.jpg

Betty Doyle – The Phlebotomist

The PVC seat cover is torn,

and my Mary Janes squeal against

regulation grey linoleum,

the sound ricocheting

amongst the pale walls.

The nurse cannot find a vein

in the crook of my elbow,

the back of my hand, my knuckle,

my foot. She says it is the Irish blood

in me – something in my genes

makes me flinty.

My mother is the same.

The nurse tells me to focus

on the clock opposite, to count backwards.

I start at twelve.

My friends are in Biology right now,

labelling diagrams with chewed-up pencils,

highlighting the ovaries, the womb,

misspelling fallopian tubes.

At ten, the outline of the clock

begins to bend and wobble

in my iris.

The numbers dance about, refracted,

and I dribble blue-black mascara,

staining my school tie,

stray crumbs stinging

in my water line.

At eight, the names of numbers

hitch at the back of my throat,

become stuck,

the vowels quivering

along red-raw chords.

I can feel the sharp silver point

searching under my skin.

I cannot even fill one vial

with the glaring-yellow top.

The nurse lets me go

with a gauze-taped knuckle.

It’s Art class. I sit in the toilets

until the bell rings,

my face red and wet and pressed

against the cold piss-rank tiles.

The fear settles into the lining of my stomach

both hot and cold.

Trying to walk, to move my pelvis and hips

is stiff, as if the joints are set metal.

Passing through the pull of busy corridors,

pretending that it was routine, checking my vitamin D.

Slowly thumbing the paper tape away,

watching my skin pull and feeling a thrill

at the small deliberate hurt, making it last,

thinking that this is what I deserve.

Examining the single spot of blood left on the gauze,

so much smaller than I expected,

too small to hold my undeserving,

my doctor’s letter, the end of the line.

Betty Doyle is a poet and Creative Writing tutor from Merseyside. Her work has been published in Agenda, Butcher’s Dog, The North, and Poetry Wales, amongst others, and her poem ‘I am become a woman’ placed second in BRAG magazine’s inaugural poetry prize. She has recently completed a PhD in Creative Writing, researching infertility poetics. Her debut poetry pamphlet, Girl Parts, was published by Verve Poetry Press in Spring 2022.

Artwork: Cup 2: Ink by Laura Warner 

Laura Warner (she/her) is a poet and PhD researcher at the University of Exeter. Her project, Menstrual Poetics, uses poetry to explore the impact of menstrual politics on lived experience of the condition endometriosis. Her work has appeared in Poetry Wales, Streetcake Magazine, Tangled Locks Journal, and Lucy Writers Platform.
Twitter: @warner_writer @MenstrualPoetic

bottom of page