On AIDS in Tanzania

Something as simple as a pill in the palm of her hand

This Tanzanian woman

sings as she breast feeds

They say it was rain

But it was always my

tears and sweat

which brought up the maize

They said the railroads

will bring a new day

But it was always diamonds going

with the sunset

the other way

And now she dies and is dying

Something as simple as a pill in the palm of her hand

This Tanzanian woman

Brilliant orange head wrap

Red African mud between her toes

Any pill

Anything close to healing

She does not hold in the palm of her hand.

Her left breast sags in

the sun.

Ribs exposed

continuum with the spine of her too large wooden chair

She resembles the chair

both of them frail

twigs

ready to snap

a pill

Something as simple as a pill in the palm of her hand

Her hands scathed

rough as maize husk

She dies and is dying

Her 5 month old

baby boy born at dawn

suckles at her dry left breast

He suckles ashes from her left breast

Something as simple as a pill in the palm of her hand

Who owns this pill?

What plant or human genome extract gave birth to it?

Who cut the compound, packaged

into compact cure?

In which boardroom, what lawyers patented it?

Blue suits and leather suitcases

tucking death into the space between fine print

Who keeps the cash?

Which markets rose while she fell?

Which corporate graph will track her demise?

Who will clench their fists one over the other as she opens her hand?

This Tanzanian woman

Her baby boy born at dawn

Who will begin to ask for a moratorium on their death penalty?

Something as simple

as a pill in the palm of her hand

Who will join this standing up?

A reach

to claim the pill

demand the pill

And place it in her hand

Something as simple

and good

as healing

A pill in the palm of her hand

By Dr. Sriram Shamasunder

*Photo credit to Mr. G. Haverkamp Pharmaccess foundation

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