“Nobody Dies Because They Don’t Have Access to Health Care” by Jen Karetnick

Jen Karetnick


—Rep. Raúl Labrador (R-Idaho)

Nobody knows about
how the fingers of fog

have blown the fuses
of her synapses until

the email has been sent
and returned, the form

submitted incorrectly,
the name misspelled

but published anyway.
Even her conversation

has retractions most days.
Then Nobody can’t find the words

she wants and substitutes
the silence of a search

party, whose communication
is the weak stuttering

of drugstore flashlights.
But what is there, anyway,

to say? A poorly balanced
budget of cellular

call and response, toxic
to herself, Nobody only pre-exists

before what is not likely
to be a grand exit

but the kind few
notice, like the melting

of those sneaky slivers
of ice in a dry martini.

Nobody’s digestive organs
have joined a union

to limit the hours
they want to work.

Nobody’s muscles and joints
resist like dogs who think

their humans are on
the other side of the door,

who have not really left
and are up to playing

some sort of cruel trick.
But it’s a matter

of willpower, healthy
eating, giving up

the Diet Coke—more water!—
says everybody Nobody meets

who all recommend
hot yoga, as correct

as House Republicans.
Tomorrow it’s time

to take that advice
instead of pills, invest

in ClassPass instead of
Blue Cross Blue Shield

and believe that
in decades Nobody will still

be posing in the light
steam, awash with joy.

Look at her now, already
how Nobody sweats and laughs.

Poets Respond
May 9, 2017

[download audio]


Jen Karetnick: “This news story is related to the House’s passing of the abysmal American Health Care Act. At a town hall, Rep. Raul Labrador made the statement that “Nobody dies because they don’t have access to health care,” which of course is patently false. As a woman with autoimmune and immune dysfunction diseases–including ME/CFS, which has only recently gained credibility in the medical community–and an immediate family of individuals who have celiac, inflammatory bowel disease, cancer and bipolar disorder, we are textbook pre-existing conditions. Without access to health care, at least one of us would already be dead. This poem is also a comment on those who are saying that we should protect our health by exercising and eating well. Sorry, but you can’t wish congenital conditions away with yoga.” (website)

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