Snake Oil

A mild January day
Just after the turn of the year.
Warm enough to leave the doors open
And air out the house
Hoping to rid ourselves
Of the unwelcome microbes
We imagine have accumulated
In cushions and bed linens
Perhaps even in the woodwork,
The walls, the floorboards,
During the shut-down closed-tight
Indoor days
We have endured recently
Because of heavy rains.
Everyone talking uneasily
About flu season
And discussing whether
The shots do any good.
Everyone dosing with elderberry syrup
Mushroom powder
Vitamin C.
Just now a helicopter flies over
And I imagine it on high alert
For invading viruses,
Ready to shoot first
Immunofluoresce after.
But perhaps the helicopter is on its way
To another lovely war
Being prescribed by the mendacious quacks
And hucksters of imperial policy
As inoculation
Against foreign pathogens
That would do our nation harm.
They’ve been peddling that same snake oil
For a very long time.
I’m not buying.

Buff Whitman-Bradley’s newest book is And What Will We Sing? a collection of protest and social justice poems spanning the last 25 years. He podcasts at and lives with his wife, Cynthia, in northern California. Read other articles by Buff.