“Poem in which Barbie Qualifies for Medicare” by Denise Duhamel

Denise Duhamel


March 9, 2024

Barbie never thought too much about her eligibility.
She’d loved AARP—the discounts at Sunglass Hut
and Outback Steakhouse—when she waved
her bright red card. She’d been born to shop,
but the medical world was still a mystery to her.
Sure, one of her first careers was as a Registered Nurse,
and a decade later, she became an MD. But she had
little experience being a patient except when children
made her a papier mâché arm cast or shaved off her hair
in play-chemo. Without vertebrae or femur,
Barbie never took a bone density test or had to worry
about osteoporosis. Menopause had been a breeze—
no hot flashes, no bleeding to miss. She was spotless
when it came to age spots, even after all those years
in the sun. No pee when she sneezed. No cataracts
despite the fact that she never blinked. She still drove
at night but was considering trading in her convertible
for a cushy Lincoln town car to arrive in Medicare-style
for her annual checkups. She was looking forward to a ride
in an MRI then consulting a podiatrist to see if anyone could
at last help ease her feet into New Balance sneakers.
The dermatologist told her Botox was covered if Barbie
suffered from migraines. Her smile had never given way
to laugh lines or crow’s feet. Still, Barbie lifted her hands
to her temples and told a white lie—why yes,
those headaches have sometimes been so fierce I’ve had to retreat
into my dark box to rest. After all, Barbie
was an American boomer and wanted her fair share,
what she thought she deserved, what was coming to her.

from Poets Respond


Denise Duhamel: “I didn’t think I had another Barbie poem in me! (I thought I’d put her to rest in 1997 after the publication of my book Kinky.) But I couldn’t resist the idea of Barbie being eligible for Medicare.” (web)

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