Journalism in Verse – EST. 2016

Untitled design (4)

Silver and Lead

in Health by

This man, look at him: skin blue
Tinted gray. Here lies undead in
This rented hospital bed. Saved:

Not by grace, divinity, luck or praise,
But electricity shocking him.
The doctors worked endlessly.

The woman who took him in claimed
He returned home looking pale
And paler still, every Sunday night

Hailed a cab, returned with packages
Tightly held. Why he hid from her
She couldn’t say. No one visited.

Three nights he stayed in the ICU
His heart burned by silver, his skin
Singed blue and gray—from a mail

Order company. Thinking it would
Heal, ingested for weeks, one drop
In his daily milk. Some kind of Avatar

Magic. The FDA: they wouldn’t approve.
Not the first man to emerge from
That slough. Hot tub time machine

Petri soup. Impulse to make things
Great like before. Women used
Lead once. Lead painted on skin

Before Cosmo and Vogue. Now
Children are poisoned. Flint was
Once used to make fire; no more.

Now: brain rot and teeth counted curie.
Silver, a known quantity. And lead.
Value weighted, calibrated by the time

Machine: that unmistakably sensitive
Scale. Impartial to truth. Something
That will never be fixed.


Note from the poet:  Silver poisoning is a medical condition that I was surprised to have encountered during my PA school medical rotations. It is caused by the purposeful ingestion of silver, which, like lead, can result in a number of harmful side effects. This poem is a comment on many things: the erosion of trust in science, the Flint water crisis, and Trump’s failed promise to ‘Make America Great Again’.


Colloidal silver turns you blue – but can it save your life? [WIRED]
Five oversight issues EPA says may have fueled Flint’s water crisis [mLIVE Michigan]
71 Michigan water systems now have higher lead levels than Flint [mLIVE Michigan]

Amy Shaw is a cardiology PA living and working in Cheyenne, Wyoming. She turned to poetry after the recent election to focus on the personal in what feels like a world coming apart at the seams.

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