Saturday, October 23, 2010

Poem: The Mine Clinic

Back in September I entered Dr. Charles’ poetry contest. The winning poems were beautiful, and I enjoyed reading the entries he posted earlier in the month.

Here's my poem, submitted at almost literally the last minute:
The Mine Clinic

The people of Siria Valley
are losing pieces of themselves -
patches of skin like cellophane wrappers,
divots of hair.

The company’s doctor
chides them for untidiness,
straw-hatted carelessness,
prescribes mineral baths, vitamins, vinegar.
It's about this situation in Honduras. Rights Action made a documentary about it in 2008:

While I was writing, this happened. (Even if you hate my poem, you shouldn’t ignore the Siria Valley and the harm done by Goldcorp.) It appears that a judge ruled this week in favor of the Canadian corporation, but this is being appealed amidst international pressure. The situation in the Siria Valley has been developing for a decade and can’t be said to result from last year’s coup, but the fight for justice and its current possibilities show how intricately linked political and economic inequality and struggles for justice are to human health and the fate of the environment.

My poem was different from the others in that it was, to the extent that this can be said of a poem, critical concerning medicine. I had read the name of the real doctor somewhere – he gave a press conference following “clinical” consultations in the area - but wasn’t able to find it later. His name isn’t central, though (well, perhaps to future prosecutions...). My questions - relevant to but not circumscribed by this extreme case - concern the role of medicine in the contemporary global context. What does it mean to be a patient or health professional in conditions of gross inequality and poverty, corporate power, repression, and massive environmental destruction?

The ‘hero’ of this story, to whom the poem was dedicated, is Dr. Juan Almendares,* whose life has been about fighting for justice in Honduras and for an ethical medicine. The Honduras Human Rights Platform, of which Almendares is a representative, won this year’s Letelier-Moffitt Human Rights Award from the Institute for Policy Studies. Adrienne Pine has the text of Almendares’ short speech and video of the full awards ceremony. Here’s a clip of Bertha Oliva’s acceptance speech:

*It mentions at that link, and I’ve seen hints elsewhere, that he is a practitioner/advocate of “alternative” medicine, which is potentially troubling. I haven’t been able to find exactly which.


  1. I love it. Much better than mine (which also did not win).

  2. You're very kind.

    I plan to frame your comment and hang it on my wall.