Poem, ‘Dear Legislators’

Dear legislators in Capitol City, sweating in stone buildings this Session,
searching for cash and coins for clinics and coronary bypass machines,
for bandages and bedpans, searching inside books and briefs and file
cabinets. Surely you’ve looked everywhere, but what do I know? I’m just
a poet with my papers and pens, just a professor with my satchel and silly
books, just a former nurse from Canada with my starched cap and soft-soled
shoes. Have you checked the bills coming in for aircraft carriers and chemicals
for our bases in Colombia and Cuba, for gas masks and guns for our soldiers
in Greece, Kyrgyzstan, and Paraguay, for tanks and tracer bullets in Thailand,
and São Tomé e Principe? Have you asked why we’re still buying barbed wire
and bayonets for our battalions in Bahrain and Britain? Or claymore mines
and missiles for our military in the Marianas and the United Arab Emirates?
What about the cost of nuclear intelligence for our navy in Norway and the
Netherlands? Or artillery for our armed forces in Egypt, Ecuador and Ethiopia,
in Japan, Djibouti, and Jordan, in Panama and in Puerto Rico, Spain and Saudi
Arabia, in Poland, Liberia and Italy? Can we talk about foreclosing the bases?
Funding defibrillators instead for families in Florida and Delaware. Buying syringes
and scalpels and stethoscopes for clinic staff in South Dakota and Colorado.
Pacemakers for elders with arrhythmia in Alabama and Alaska. Bicycles
and jogging institutes for Illinois, Indiana, and Iowa. Treadmill machines
and touring nutritionists for Utah, Texas, and Kentucky. But what do I know,
I’m just a poet with my papers and pens, just a person wondering why we’re
buying bullets with our billions instead of seeking care for our millions

Note: “The United States spends approximately $250 billion annually to maintain troops, equipment, fleets and bases overseas…865 bases operate outside the United States.” — Anita Dancs, “Cost of Global U.S. Military Presence,” Foreign Policy in Focus, Washington, D.C. July 3, 2009.

Frances Payne Adler is the author of 5 books of poetry, including ‘The Making of a Matriot’ (Red Hen Press, 2003), and is one of three co-editors of ‘Fire and Ink: An Anthology of Social Action Writing’ (University of Arizona Press, 2009). Her collaborative poetry-photography books and exhibitions about access to health care have shown in state capitol buildings and in the U.S. Senate in Washington, D.C. Adler is a professor of creative writing at California State University Monterey Bay, and founder of their Creative Writing and Social Action Program. In her earlier years, Adler was an emergency room nurse in Montreal.