Malaria Poems: Counterfeit

Background photo ©James Gathany/CDC, Designed by Leigh Cavanaugh
By Cameron Conaway


Third of malaria drugs ‘are fake’ 2

Their five faces fade black

in turns inside the shadow

trail cast by the steady sway

of the single yellow bulb 

in the cobwebbed basement.

Two cut the powder and two

clean tubes and one with gun –

to profit with pills on people 

is as natural as moon song.

Borrow bright, borrow blues.

My eye fills the floorboard hole

and I look down on them

making a living by taking

the living left in the dying

and knowing it or knowing not.

There the whirling fan blades

measure the bulb’s pulse, 

count silhouettes not seconds,

swing night like clock tongue

on artemisinin white sand beaches.

There the young men, boys really,

hired for their inability

to break or take or seize

rights or all over the floors.

Blinking days split like grieving.

Boys, stencil-stashed kids really,

who know not their father or Artemis’s 

or bow’s curve, but the butterfly

and hourglass of arrow’s entry wound.

Not yet how time tweaks string.

There the kids, slaves really,

who know not the story beneath

their fingernails or the speed

in their bloodstream: Amphetamine

in Chinese means Isn’t this his

fate? Take them to make them.

There the hate I held as hair

bled through the floorboard hole,

to and fro like a floating feather

of then and then getting caught,

lost in the dust of the cobwebs.

About the Author

Cameron Conaway is the Social Justice Editor at The Good Men Project. He was the 2011-2012 Poet-in-Residence at the Mahidol Oxford Tropical Medicine Research Unit in Thailand and the 2007-2009 Poet-in-Residence at the University of Arizona’s MFA Creative Writing Program. His work has appeared or been reviewed in ESPNThe Huffington PostRattleTeach MagazineMöbius The AustralianCosmopolitan and the Ottawa Arts Review, among others. His first book of poems, “Until You Make the Shore,” was released in Winter 2013 from Salmon Poetry. For more information visit

2. BBC. Title. Michelle Roberts. 05/22/2012.