Skip to content

a poem about insurance

Explication:  In honor of the Supreme Court’s favorable ruling today on what we’ve come to call ObamaCare, I’m dusting off my “poem about insurance.”  This happened a few years ago when my friend and neighbor John was over; we were talking about firetrucks going up the street, which led to a discussion of home insurance, and then to insurance in general.  He looked at me and said, “You’re the poet – write a poem about that!”  How could I step down from a challenge like that?


A poem about insurance?

Who would want to write it?
Who would want to read it?
Who would underwrite it?

(Oh hey, this could be fun.)

But this would be a poem to mean and do,
and when I asked old you-know-who,
old Ars McLeish, he said I didn’t have to mean,
just be.

But then a tiger sprang at me,
lashing his tail and demanding to be
let out, to stand out in the light.

Well?  I couldn’t just leave him there,
all burning bright,
now could I?

And so, a poem about insurance.

And why not?
Should I never join the topics of the day?
Should I always troll the tropics,
never straying from
imagination’s bumpy way?

And so, a poem about insurance.

And is it really such a stretch?
From universal love
to universal life?
From health insurance for a warrior
to a poet’s song of strife?

If Hiawatha, if he were here,
had to wait to see a doctor,
had to show his signed referral,
just to make the damned appointment,
during normal business hours
you can bet he’d be quite testy
with the telephonic system
(“Please press two if you speak English”)
with the bureaucratic bullshit
of the Mighty Permanente
Gitchie Goo Insurance, Inc.

And every doc who ever saw him,
always worried of malpractice,
paranoia of their station,
secret longing for the old days,
wishing that they still made house calls,
wishing that they didn’t have to
hear the bureaucratic bullshit
of the Mighty Permanente
Gitchie Goo Insurance, Inc.

And every doc who ever saw him,
Hiawatha and the skin rash,
Hiawatha’s orthopedist,
Hiawatha’s next transfusion,
Hiawatha’s medication
costs a half a million dollars,
which is why our Hiawatha
presses two and speaks in English.

For the Mighty Permanente
Gitchie Goo Insurance, Inc,
covers all his medication,
all his Prozac and his flu shots,
covers half his orthodontia,
yearly checkups for the prostate
of the aging Hiawatha.

And our aged and ailing warrior
keeps his premiums quite current
keeps his ratings in good standing
quite regardless of the hardship
this imposes on his budget.

Hiawatha used to wonder
if this Gitchie Goo Insurance
wasn’t just more White Man trouble,
wasn’t just a way to gamble.
‘Give me money every season,
I’ll return more when you need it?’
Why don’t I simply keep my money?
Then I’ll have it when I need it.
And besides, I feel just fine.”

Hiawatha was immortal
back when he was in his twenties,
had no need for this insurance
on his health or on his wigwam,
on his mighty war club, Bigstick,
on his mittens, Miturhandin,
on his shining big sea yacht.

(This was before his epic battles
with his father, mighty Break Wind,
with the wampum queen, Pearl Feather,
with the Manitos of mischief,
and those alliterative evils
of et cetera and ad nauseum.)

But one day when he was older,
as he watched his burning wigwam
in the glare of big fork lightning
and he realized that he hadn’t
saved that money as he’d meant to,
he decided that insurance
might not be quite such a bad thing.

So now the Mighty Permanente
Gitchie Goo Insurance, Inc.,
covers all his home and horses
(with a rider on the albums
he’s collected since the Thirties
and his hi-fi record player
with its diamond-carbide needle),
covers comprehensive damage
for his mittens, Miturhandin,
and collision for his Bigstick,
and the shining big sea yacht.

And he knows that old Nokomis,
ancient wise and wizened mother,
needs her insulin each evening,
and her pension from the old days
doesn’t meet the cost of healthcare.

And he knows that Chibiabos,
younger brother on his Dad’s side,
still on methadone from rehab,
would be sliding back in no time
if it weren’t for all the wampum
that his caseworker from Upstate
spends on him and dozens like him.

And the Mighty Permanente
Gitchie Goo Insurance, Inc.,
like a dozen others like it
makes its wampum running tables
like a big 3-D casino.
Actuarial pit bosses
cover life’s expected losses
by spreading out the risk of failure
among thousands of subscribers.

For if mighty Hiawatha
were the only paying member
of the Mighty Permanente
Gitchie Goo Insurance, Inc.,
then it wouldn’t have the wampum
to replace his burning wigwam
or his torn and tattered mittens
or to fix the leaking yacht.

But by having more subscribers
than the nighttime ocean starfield
boasts of shining points of brightness,
and despite the aggravation
of their bureaucratic bullshit,
the Mighty Permanente
Gitchie Goo Insurance, Inc.,
can cover all of these, plus more things
that you and I will never dream of.

And since not all of the subscribers’
lucky numbers hit the jackpot,
the Gitchie Goo Insurance pit boss
takes their cash and lets it ride.

Published inPeople


  1. An Agent An Agent

    Great poetry , you covered it well. Insurance a must have.
    Love it. funny too. lol

  2. […] write a poem about that.” I laughed – but a week later, I found myself compelled to write A Poem About Insurance and I presented it to him. About a week after that … he graded it. It was just who he was. I will […]

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *