Wednesday, June 28, 2017

11 Poems for Care

We're fighting for health care and we know you are too! Poetry, in fact, is relevant everywhere, including policy debates. As the administration and majority party seek to reverse the progress made, and to remove the protections given Americans by “Obamacare,” Split This Rock offers 11 poems on matters related to health and health care.

When we searched our collection for poems that witness on health or illness, to respond to the current fiasco of dismantling the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, we found most of the poems on this theme are by women. Fitting, since the current Senate bill never once mentions women. The poems range in subject from families living with a son’s mental illness, to the way chronic pain can govern a life, to how our veterans need the care our government might soon eliminate - unless we fight!

We hope you will find inspiration for your advocacy work as you resist the draconian and mean-spirited reforms currently under consideration. You might not only read these poems, but use them:

      to help keep yourself grounded
     to open meetings
     to share among discussion groups, inspire others
     to email to representatives to inspire them to keep working for the health and safety of the people
     or to email to those who need a reminder of just how much our health is a matter of luck, or class, or gender, or war.

We offer excerpts of these poems, below, for your hearts and your courage. Click on the title to read the full poem.

For more poems related to matters of health, its economics, and the effects of care, please visit  The Quarry: A Social Justice Poetry Database.  

As I Pay Forty Dollars

By Susan Eisenberg

for my asthma inhaler that
last year cost fifteen
I pause     for the mom

whose young son will forget
his inhaler / on the bus /
at his friend’s house /
in the park / at the game /
maybe in his school locker /

Test for Cognitive Function

By Hermine Pinson

“I will ask you to recall these words
at the end of our session”

Depression Insists We Stay In

By Katy Richey

You do look fat in those pants,
probably gained twenty pounds
in the last thirty minutes. There’s no parking
within ten blocks of the party.
All the people you hate are already there.
They’re miserable too, but tonight
you won’t be able to tell. They’ll have
green string tied around their middle fingers
and you’re supposed to know why.

A Car, A Man, A Maraca

By Charlie Bondhus

At the mirror I heft
elbows, belly, cock,
say hematocrit—44.3; hemoglobin—15.2;
neutrophils—62; monocytes—5.

And Still They Come (for Dr. Sue)

By Gordon Cash

… You make war
On us, ignore or call collateral
The pain and blood of woman-damage left
In all your battles' wakes.  And still they come.
The patients come, each seeking her own peace.

By Sheila Black
The brace was metal, and it fastened around the ankles.
Outside in the street there was the beggar with elephantiasis; there was
the leper, the neighbor with eyes milky blind,

and in the book the child with the hand reaching out for the water.
Everyone spoke in code, everyone lied. There were the

invisible hospitals. There were the poor who could be scattered
like lice.

Dick Cheney’s New Heart Speaks

By Melissa Tuckey

A roadside bomb is planted in every chest

I was a pea sized fist in the dirt of a man
who had half your brains
but he was good

By Elizabeth Acevedo

 … Rob, I am splintered, drawn blood.
We both know how to slip medicine into milk, how to gift
each other with our backs. The hundred kinds of get out
someone can backhand against a name, take them all, palmed,
opened, don't be afraid that I'll ever try to walk through this door,
because the surface against my cheek is the only comfort you've shown
me in years.

Oceanside, CA

By Marie-Elizabeth Mali

Balancing on crutches in the shallows
near her mother, a girl missing her right lower leg
swings her body and falls, laughing.


Ode to the Chronically Ill Body

By Camisha Jones

This body       is lightning
     Strikes the same place      more than twice

This body       is a fist                         pounding its own hand
This body       crumples like paper
           I crumple     like paper           because of this body
This body       just wants        and wants         and wants

from Autobiography/Anti-Autobiography

By Jennifer Bartlett

based on a series of neat errors
          falling and catching

to thrust forward

sometimes the body misses
then collapses

it shatters

with this particular knowledge

a movement spastic
                       and unwieldy

is its own lyric

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