Thursday, June 4, 2015

Polio By Any Other Name

A mash up between
an NPR article by Linton Weeks, “Defeating Polio”/my own view point

Polio by Any Other Name

Between 1937 and 1997, it is estimated that more than 457,000 people in the U.S. contracted some form of polio.

Afraid of polio,
afraid of everything,
it gave us permission
to think it was out there—
and not inside of us.

It is a disease that attacks the central nervous system and often leaves its victims partially or fully paralyzed.

At the swimming pool,
not immediately changing out of a wet swim suit,
sitting in a damp sand box,
my mother warned me.
Now I wonder:
Was she afraid of polio
or afraid of losing me?

Polio was at its height in the early 1950s. There was no prevention; there was no cure.

And, what exactly is fear?
an emotion so strong it imitates love,
a shadow, an echo, a deceit.
I’m afraid of dying,
therefore I love death.

Coming back to school in September there were always empty desks.

This isn’t it.

Each summer, polio would come like The Plague.

Polio as the Jew,
the outsider storming the castle,
it is faceless, without humanity,
a hungry thing, a monster.

In some places people stopped handling paper money and refused to shake hands.

Polio as the black man.
Ferguson, Baltimore, Pittsburg, L.A.
Polio had to be destroyed
shot down, strangled,
lynched, eradicated.

There was nothing a parent could do to protect the family.

It takes away our children,
ruins our women,
paralyzes everyone and everything it touches.

On April 12, 2015, we celebrate the 60th anniversary of a vaccine developed by Jonas Salk that prevented the disease and eventually led to its remarkable decline. The introduction of that vaccine in 1955 was one of the biggest medical advances in American history.

My mother died an old woman.
I’m now past middle-age.
Polio is a thing of the past,
but it lingers—this fear.

The date was April 12, 1955 — the announcement came from Ann Arbor, Mich. Church bells tolled, factory whistles blew. People ran into the streets weeping. President Eisenhower invited Jonas Salk to the White House, where he choked up while thanking Salk for saving the world's children.

Polio by any other name
is that thing that cannot be named.

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