“Ode to a Band-Aid” by Penny Harter

Penny Harter


Over the years, how often I have run to your
tin box or cardboard container, searching for
the perfect closure. Some of your kind are big 
enough for a skinned knee; others like the
butterfly can pull together delicate edges, skin
to skin. How frantic we are as we grab which
of you we can find in our cabinet of magic,
then tear the red thread of your wrapper down
your side as if it were a thin seam marked with
blood that you might staunch.


Not always welcome, though, is your after-life
discarded on the ballfield dirt, dropped under the
bleachers, or tossed into the waste beside the sick
bed, your stained face open and staring at us
with proof of what is kept inside—blood, pus,
any seepage from your hoped-for repair. Of all
your incarnations I love the butterfly the most,
a winged hinting at the transformation you will
bring to a child’s bloodied brow, or to the pit left
from an excised skin blemish taken for biopsy.


Indispensable helper, how carefully I peel off the
protective papers on either side of your sticky
promise to adhere, apply you just so, check you
frequently to be sure you aren’t soaked through
and need replacement. Even your name, band-aid
is so right, your purpose to aid the band of human-
kind, taking the place of dirty strips of cloth ripped
off a sleeve on the battlefield, or a roll of filmy
gauze too soon unraveling, lacking the glue that
binds you to our flesh, dear band-aid, little friend.

from Rattle #78, Winter 2022


Penny Harter: “After a pandemic year of writing frequent poems focused on offering hope to myself and others, I gathered those poems into a forthcoming collection. For some weeks after that, I stopped writing, but now it’s spring, I’m celebrating having gotten the Covid vaccine, and it’s time to move on into new work. The older I get, the more I realize we are a sum of all our memories, both easily accessed and well buried. In different ways, I feel these newer poems are simultaneously visiting both past and present.” (web)

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