Veneta Masson

Politicians…were quick to rise to the defense 

of a particularly vulnerable population. As a group, 
dual-eligibles [Medicare-Medicaid] have incomes below 
the poverty rate…and take an average of 15 medications a day.


Washington Post
January 14, 2006


This is how it works: 
as wealth trickles down 
to the poor and old 
it turns into pills.


So M and S, their slender portfolios 
long since depleted, can still
compete for bragging rights.
I take twenty a day, says M.
Ha! counters S, I take so many
they had to put in a port.


G presides over the corporate enterprise,
his specialty, mergers and acquisitions.
With combined assets (his own and his wife’s)
filling two cupboards, he allocates resources, 
tracks inventory, restocks 
from Canada and Wal-Mart.


K can still indulge herself.
I’ll start with one of the pale pink ones,
she tells the striped tabby, 
but I might decide I need two or three.
I’ll wait a while and see how I feel.
Maybe the purple would do me more good.


Honor is served.
Wealth is transferred.
The old have their pills.
And their health? 
That’s another story.


About the poet:


Veneta Masson is a nurse and poet living in Washington, D.C. She has written three books of essays and poems, drawing on her experiences over twenty years as a family nurse practitioner and director of an inner-city clinic. Information about her new poetry collection, Clinician’s Guide to the Soul, is available at www.sagefemmepress.com.


About the poem: 


When I first read the article in the Washington Post from which I took the epigraph for this poem, my mind flooded with memories of all the elders I’ve cared for over the years and what role their pills played in their lives. Talk about the placebo effect! It applies not just to the patient whose medication fills various roles, but to the professional who prescribes them and the society which manufactures and pays for them.


Poetry editors: 


Judy Schaefer and Johanna Shapiro


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"On Being Different"