Finding safety in poetry on Workers’ Memorial Day

By: April 28th, 2009 Email This Post Print This Post

For one day a year at least, this day, April 28, Workers Memorial Day, move beyond the usually dry and impersonal language of safety standards and training advice, and allow poetry to inform you on the deeply personal matter of not wanting to see any worker hurt or injured.

That is what Stacy Smallwood, MPH, who served a fellowship with NIOSH in 2007, accomplished with his Workers Memorial Day poetry performance.

Smallwood begins his poem/performance not with a catastrophe such as a mine disaster or an industrial explosion but a single nurse, doing a job she loved. A job accident that did not cause an immediate fatality, but one that seriously compromised her health over time, forcing her “to trade out livers like broken hearts.”

Here is an excerpt:

Daily she traded blood for hope and
Balanced the lives of untold millions
On the tip of a needle.
Without fear she wielded the hollow-bores
Like swords,
Never thinking that the tip might kick back,
Show its double edge,
And pierce her delicate skin.
It comes with the work, she says,
That you gotta take some pokes
To save a life.
But this time the blood was tainted,
Crawled into her streams and laced her
With hepatitis C.
. . . . . .
No one should die while
Trying to make a living.
No one should have to die
While trying to make
A living.

Please read or view Smallwood’s full poem/performance (running time: 5:44) at “On the occasion of Workers’ Memorial Day 2007.” It may provide you and your co-workers inspiration for keeping your workplace safe and healthy today and every day.


By MASHALANE ELLIOT on February 24th, 2012 at 10:24 am



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