Poetry Corner: "Mandatory Health Assessment"

Eyebrows tweezed,
Elle does a little turn on the catwalk.
Lips pouting pinkly,
Fat feet grinding plush carpet underfoot,
Legs almost-shaved:
I made my entrance.

I came. I saw. I was fabulous.
“Do you have an appointment?”
My nose stud sizzled.
“Who’s your insurance carrier?”
My cleavage daunted.
“Have a seat over there.”
My derriere swayed a charmed-snake dance.

Well, yes,
Small line of foldable
Black plastic,
One of you may have the honor
Of touching this,
Of holding all that.
I hear your ecstatic groan
And raise you
A papery sigh of relief.

“Hill! Ellen- Elle- Ellie Hill!”
The partition trembles
At my advance.
No rush, sweet thang –
I’m coming.

My goodness!
What big tools you have!
The better to—Ow!
My finger slobbers blood,
My arm seethes
Hot red streaks.
I was born in June.
They say the temperature that day—
No, a six. Of seventy-four.

I'm like a human hammer to the scale.
A bathroom scale –
As cheap and plastic as smiles –
Creaks, pops… and stops.
I knew it! I’m immeasurable!
“The forms,” she says, “the forms.
Can you estimate?”
No need – I know!
Three ninety-two.
You heard right:
Three. Nine. Two.
Nigh on twenty score,
My good woman.

Numbers, numbers,
Small and round.

Waist circumference?
You gonna make me a skirt?
I like them long and billowy
And bright enough to
Stare down the sun...
No, I didn’t know
I’m only ten inches
Less around than tall.

I exercise a lot,
Provided my partner is in town,
Know what I…
No, I don’t smoke.
But I like butter.
I don’t…
Well, I’m diabetic.
I would, but…

The computer hums out
A report card
With an “overall health grade”
And everything.
Not so immeasurable, 
As it turns out.
Blood pressure: B.
Cholesterol: C.
Weight: Double-decker,
Criss-cross applesauce

And my impeccable driving record?
No grade.
My love life?
No grade.
My ecstatic, terrible, bright purple passion
For teaching?
No grade.
My compassion, activism,
Sparkling wit and toenail polish artistry?
Zip, zero, zilch.

Questions without an answer,
Photos without a subject,
Numbers without a name,
Words without
A voice.

And my health grade?
It was a D.
A D.
I got a D grade.
D grade.
I got d-graded.

I see this equation.
I know this math.
Three-hundred ninety-two
Times zero
Is still nothing.

Performing my poem


  1. Replies
    1. Thank you, baby. And thanks for being there for me, both when the "health assessment" occurred and when I cried while performing this poem.

  2. Is that a real health report card? I would stab someone in the eye!

    Well worded, as usual.

    1. This is an actual, very real health report card. I obviously changed the name on it, but otherwise, it's their report on the "health" aspect of my personhood.

      Thanks for the kind words. I cried like a baby when writing and performing this at PCA.

  3. silly report card forgot some categories!

    physical beauty = A+
    spiritual beauty = A+
    honesty and humor = A+
    ability to attract incredible sexy stunning partner = A+

    1. Thank you, thank you.

      I did kinda notice their assessment of "health" was missing a *few* things. I think the health assessment peeps should hire you to redesign their "health" report cards. ;)

      Oh, and "incredible sexy stunning partner" pretty well sums it up. You're obviously a trained observer. :-D

      Huge hugs.

  4. They graded you on having an auto-immune disorder? WTF! What about grading them on shaming their employees. Okay, now so mad...

    1. RIGHT?! Jen and I have been having these intense discussions about the moralizing language of "health" and how it shames, guilts, demands penance, and such. "Health" as an institution has the same relationship with individual health and wellness as churches do with individuals' spiritualities: nice as guidelines and for community but often more concerned with expansion, control, and the institution's survival than about the wellness and survival of its members.


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