Poem of the Week | July 11, 2022

This week’s Poem of the Week is “To My Insulin Pump” by Rebecca Lindenberg.

Rebecca Lindenberg is the author of Love, an Index (McSweeney’s) and The Logan Notebooks (Mountain West Poetry Series), winner of the 2015 Utah Book Award. She’s the recipient of an Amy Lowell Traveling Poetry Fellowship, an NEA Literature Grant, a seven-month residency from the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown, an Ohio Arts Council Individual Excellence Award, and other honors. Her work appears more recently in American Poetry Review, Tin House, Best American Poetry 2019, Tupelo Quarterly, Prelude, and elsewhere. She’s a member of the poetry faculty at the University of Cincinnati where she also serves as Poetry Editor for the Cincinnati Review.


To My Insulin Pump

You’re part of my anatomy now – port,
they call it. Into the flesh of my belly,
I insert a needle. Needle comes out, but
a tiny plastic capillary remains, affixed
to a button. Buoy on the surface of me.
Black, about the size of an old pager,
I wear you clipped to my bra like a spy.
When delivering insulin, I can hear and feel
a faint click-whir, click-whir near my heart,
a cat’s purr. Fine plastic tubing runs from
my pump to my button. Somehow
umbilical. It unclasps with a quick twist
if I want a bath. Or to fuck unobstructed.
It would not be exaggerating to say you
(weight of a deck of cards, cost of a small car)
are literally keeping me alive – but I’ll just say
you, splendid little engine, are the only part
of me I never find it difficult to love.


Author’s Note

I’ve lived with Type I Diabetes since I was eleven years old, so over three decades by now. And I’ve been writing poems for much of that time, as well, but I’ve almost never written about living with chronic disease and disability, at least not explicitly. I think I preferred my writing to serve as my distraction or escape from the simple, inescapable fact of my physical body. But the Covid-19 pandemic shifted that. I found I couldn’t escape thinking about my body, its comparative fragility, when everything my family and I were doing was about keeping ourselves safe from the pandemic. And I couldn’t escape my disease, written everywhere in the news as an example of one of the “underlying medical conditions” that makes people more susceptible to severe Covid. Once I realized I couldn’t really think about anything else, I realized I couldn’t ask myself to write about anything else for a while. This is one of several pieces that came out of my ongoing attempts to try to articulate things I’ve lived with so long, and have so deeply internalized, it can almost be like trying to find language to describe the color red, or the experience of fear. Something so known, it seems to resist explication.

This poem in particular celebrates the insulin pump I got rather late in life. For a very long time, I either didn’t have health insurance that would cover it, or I didn’t have health insurance at all. When the health care system in this country finally began to change thanks to the Affordable Care Act, I was able to get an insulin pump, and it completely transformed my life and my health. I celebrate being a cyborg, and I’m very thankful for this machine that works as an external internal organ for me. Poetry, too, and language generally also works as a kind of external internal organ for me – by a kind of echolocation, I feel my way to what I think on any given subject. Including, apparently, myself.