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A poet never breaks, a poet breaks free: On paying for the world’s most expensive drug with a poem

“ …my body sheds virus like the forest sheds dead limbs in a storm,” UNDETECTABLE by Kim Goldberg.

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Though there are many wistful moments, murky and dangerous youthful needlestick settings, heartfelt cries, starkly candid familial and other sharings from the deepest recesses, and the body’s ever-present pharmaceutic home invasion of hemolytic contraindications are what sear the scopophilic read, yet Goldberg never breaks — but rather breaks free.  

 Like a gripping live thriller-drama that dares to both provoke and entertain, Undetectable seesaws and oscillates through the yo-yo-yin-yang of game-changing cathartic life moments. As consensual peeping voyeurs, we experience the pharma-phobic Goldberg experience her moment of transmission, decades of illness secrecy, and finally her cure, rebirth and incarnation as poet-survivor. 

Both poet and the reader muse: What role did her affliction ultimately play on being alone, single, child-free, solitary and self-employed? 

what happens                                                                                                                        

to a tapestry when  

you remove the weft?

The answer is clear: once tested, detected, treated and if lucky to be cured by the miracle drug, the chains are removed, and one can again be exclusively co-infected with life’s limitless wonders. 

While most can’t use poetry to heal, Goldberg demonstrates that by thoughtfully shedding a debilitating curse, and finally ‘purging the drug that purged the virus’ we are not small and we are not powerless to create. We can re-create ourselves, find all that is undetectable, lost, or unseen along the way, and relish the palpability of our ability to chelate, create and free ourselves.

Goldberg should be on everyone’s short-list for accomplished iconic poetry honouring the best ambrosially vulnerable self-portraits in prosemetric verse. What makes her book-length poem particularly compelling is how it unintentionally makes a persuasively weighty case for expanding the poet-in-residence program from legislatures, town libraries and schools to hospitals, ‘To all those still waiting,’ as Goldberg so generously dedicates the Undetectable. 

Pharmaceutical economics be damned, let’s pray Undetectable becomes the shareholder gateway drug for demanding ‘curing the incurable,’ uncoupling corporate profits from conscience for the estimated 170 million still suffering, and the 1.4 million preventable deaths annually that might have been cured by Harvoni. 

In the meantime, let’s celebrate Kim Goldberg’s personal cure, her colossal gift to us, and break out the champagne.

Kim Goldberg's Undetectable is available for purchase from Pig Squash Press for $19. 


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