Poem 170 ± November 21, 2015

Darienne Dickey
A Letter to Martin Shkreli

Dear Mr. Shkreli,
My Uncle Rodney turned 65 last week.
After he blew out the candles on his cake,
I watched him,
short of breath,
swallow a small white pill,
the same one that you say doesn’t work the way it used to
because it’s 62 years old.
But my Uncle Rodney just turned 65.
So please tell me,
Mr. Shkreli,
Mr. “I don’t give a damn about your HIV
because the only letters I care about are CEO,”
how exactly you calculated the price of human existence.
Tell me
how it felt to rip prescription bottles
from patients’ frail fingers,
how you managed to shove fear into their faces
to the point that they choked
and their throats tightened
until they would no longer be able
to swallow that tiny tablet anyway?
The fragile immune system that cannot overcome
the parasites
stand no chance against you either.
You are a disease all your own.
(Symptoms include
and even death.)
You beg for amnesty,
you make claims for the good of the cause,
you say you will fund research to help
without realizing
that these people
have had enough AIDS.
We call this the land of opportunity,
but your bank — I mean your health care —
proves that this is the land of privilege.
Americans sold human life before,
with contempt we call that slavery,
but now
Americans bottle human life and manufacture it
and you proudly call that pharmacy.
Forgive me,
Mr. Shkreli,
I know you’re a busy man,
but I’m writing this to ask you
if you would swallow your pride
in hopes of coughing up your humanity
because my Uncle Rodney’s life
is worth more than the 750 dollars
that you ask him to swallow
twice daily.

Darienne DickeyOriginally from Bryan, Texas, Darienne Dickey is currently a senior at Texas A&M University pursuing a degree in Creative Writing with a minor in Sociology. She is also an Editor’s Assistant at Callaloo, the premier journal of African Diaspora arts and letters.

This poem is not previously published.