Editor’s note: This spring, Health Affairs held its first ever poetry contest. Three winning poems were published in the journal. We’re also featuring some of our other favorites on the Blog throughout the month of October.

You Are A Job

You forget that you are someone’s job

something they want to hurry away from

a way to pay bills, daycare, college fees


You remember when your butt goes numb

45 minutes of hard plastic pressed in soft flesh

You remember when supper comes late,


tea cup, empty, soup cold, or missing,

no tater tots, no salad, no grapes

each and every day, irksome things you cannot undo


When help disappears and pain is invisible

though sniffed, scrubbed with disinfectant hand gels

you learn to plan many moves ahead,


wrap requests in ribbons, create sequences,

hoard packets of sugar, salt, pepper, dressings,

call for help an hour before the ambulatory

flee your immobile flesh for home.

– Akua Lezli Hope


New Rule For Eating

new rule for eating: eat everything with love

love the dew on the furry stalks of tiny heirloom tomatoes the

explosion of asparagus tips being snapped from the stalk the

astringent intrusion of a carrot stick in the roof of your mouth the vivid

lucidity of orange peel drying in the sun


resist all urges to quibble with salty celery spikes – nibble them tenderly

do not fret over peppers – embrace them all


nuzzle edible flower petals

hold melons in your hands, feel the aromatic, tender weight of them






suck the marrow of tangerines

lie back

the scent of cucumber caresses your eyelids

squeeze juicy strawberries until they burst between your fingers

lick and feed yourself

pour lemon juice through your hair

your salad, yourself


revel in it

adore it

be at peace


love the parade bringing fruit to your lips

love the food circus and everyone in it


new rule for eating: swoon

-Jean Vignes