Carrying Promise

by Guneet Kaur

Somedays,
Insulin reeks.
A pungent odor
I’d recognize anywhere
Sharp to most
Noteworthy to some
And after all this time
Still revolting to me

The dull ache of an infusion site left on my abdomen
A forbidden fourth day.
“Three days, then rotate,” they say, or the inflammation will kick in.

It’s a deceiving act: place the site deep enough that the insulin circulates in your tissues.
But not too deep—don’t want your body to recognize that foreign object jammed in.
Rotate every three days- just before the body’s defenses kick in.

The thick callouses on my fingers—my personal favorite pricking points.
As rough as my grandfather’s laboring hands,
those that carried our family’s stories across worlds
through decades, over newly forged borders, and across continents.

They tell me our body is a text- that it carries a story.

Well, let me tell you my story-
it is one of needles and tubing.
of scar tissue,
of learning to hack my insulin pump out of rebellion.

Moments of incapacitating fear-
A fear of hitting boundaries, of feeling limits.

But this body- it doesn’t just carry my story.
It carries my people’s stories

The loneliness of their immigration.
Her fear from witnessing a genocide.
The pain of a border
that sliced us all in half.
A severed state living upon
our broken spines.
A mother tongue they still try to exterminate.
Our constant worry of losing any more to hate.

Fear in our sacred spaces, fear in our prayer homes.
Blood stains on this side of the world.
Bullet holes on the other.

Somedays the weight of this body, of these histories,
it feels all too much
and I doubt.
I doubt my ability to carry all of myself
to do these intersections justice.

But on those days, I remind myself,

“Brown girl, bilingual and educated.
You are your ancestors wildest dreams.
You are the very creation of defying the fear
Of resisting the limits.
You are the product of those who survived all this and more.
Who thrived amidst all this and more.”

I remind myself, that I am a walking miracle.
That I wear my organ on my waistband
And carry these stories in my blood.

I remind myself,
Insulin is the fragrance of promise.
And so am I.

Guneet Kaur (she/her) is a current Masters student in Narrative Medicine at Columbia University, and an incoming medical student at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA. She graduated from Scripps College in 2019, with a degree in Biology and Feminist, Gender, and Sexuality Studies with a concentration in race. Guneet also has a strong background in community-grounded work, particularly in mental health, chronic condition management, and reproductive healthcare in first generation, immigrant, and QTPOC+ communities. Guneet looks forward to bringing her interdisciplinary background to her future career in medicine and exploring the intersections of bioethics, social justice, and clinical practice, as well as continuing to create art with her communities and develop her craft of writing poetry.