Counting Coins

A poem I wrote almost exactly two years ago, while in my last year of grad school. Seeing a couple give their savings for their own healthcare as the provider stood by waiting for the gains, hit me me harder than I would have ever imagined. –IH

You stood in line in front of me
Wearing your old, blue baseball cap
You began digging for something I couldn’t see
But soon I learned it was a map

But not the kind with cities and roads
to help you find your way home.
No it was a secret code.
You see, we palpate lymph nodes
Enter codes
In radiology we learn about the cathodes
And their role
in making a diagnosis
We look for oral pathosis

But to you none of that matters

Because this map you carry
Disguised in wads of hundred dollar bills
All meant for the woman you chose to marry
In your journey together going uphill
You were working to fulfill
her health needs as he drilled
and filled
with his meticulous hand skills

And I could tell–
Because your wife wore a spring jacket
in the dead of winter–
that you were humble
Your words were but a mumble
And in his mind I heard the rumble
And my heart began to crumble
Because like Ms. Trunchbull
He didn’t understand this mumbo jumbo

of being a hard worker.
As merely an observer
I knew you had to persevere
to get to this point, right here
And the fact that he simply doesn’t care
Is not fair
and why am I choking back tears

Over you,
A stranger I have never spoken to?

But he is privileged,
Never worked for a dime
Got what he wanted every time
It came to him as effortlessly as this rhyme
Because he had the time
and money to learn about the enzyme
that breaks down GI chyme
never had to worry about the climb

to monetary success
and I guess
that this puts me in distress
Because I know what it takes to progress
And I must confess
that this brings memories suppressed

of that time I was asked to join
As they sat there counting coins.




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