Site Update!

Hello, friends and fam! Here’s the scoop with Pre-existing Poems!

I (Maggie) have been abroad for the past month, and will continue to be abroad for the next month. I haven’t always had consistent access to WiFi, and also as more and more outrageous news broke in the United States (stuff regarding Russia, stuff regarding LGBT rights violations, recently the horror of Philando Castile’s murderer being acquited), the focus on healthcare has gone by the wayside in the popular eye. I went from receiving two or three submissions a day to nothing at all. However, the danger of the AHCA has not gone away.

In the latest news, the Republican Senate’s version of the AHCA would allow for immense cuts to basically everything, but is different from what passed in Congress in some ways. Check out this Business Insider article for a breakdown of what’s in the Senate’s proposed legislation. For another take, head to The Atlantic, which also has a pretty thorough rundown.

If you’re a fan of this project, if you’ve contributed before and you’d like to again, or if you’re a newcomer, please consider submitting something. I’d love it if I could publish as aggressively as I did in our first couple of weeks, but I’ll be happy if I can get two to three new works up a week from here on out. And I love to hear from you, too!

Much of my time the past week has been spent trying to spread awareness about the tragic forest fires here in Portugal that began on Saturday night in Pedrógão Grande, which is not too far from where I am staying. Latest news is that the fires are finally under control, but in the meantime 64 people have died and over 250 have been injured. While none of my relatives nor I were injured, one of my cousins lost a close friend in the fire. This tragedy has been on the news constantly here in Portugal. Please keep us in your thoughts.

Anxiety & Panic Disorders · Mental Health - Other

I Understand

By Shannon Harrington

You say that you understand.
That you’ll hold my hand
As stand and cry.

What does that mean?
That you’ve been
Where I’ve been?

Is there’s a voice
Giving you a choice
Between hating or despising yourself?

That your muscles work
As the thoughts lurk and
Throw your stomach into turmoil?

Do you feel these things
As your mind flings
More poisonous words?

Then how can you say “I understand”?
That’s a lie.
Do you stand in my
Shoes and want to die?

What if “I understand”
Is nothing but an empty promise:
That you’ll be there
To show up at a distance
And pretend to care?

When the razor feels cold
Then come to me
With those bold
Words full of a bigger promise
Than you realize.


Hello, I’m Shannon Harrington and I’m graduating high school this year. I suffer from anxiety disorder, minor ocd, and partial seizures. I find much inspiration and expression through art in forms of writing, music, and painting.

Philosophical Commentary · Scathing Political Satire

News Update (this one is a poem)

By Nathan Woods

They’re killing giraffes now
with sledgehammers,
dark-skinned children smile
behind cameras for the cameras.
Adults nod, certify animals,
as cattle stranded
on shrinking islands
die slow and shit-stained,
and then there’s Coke,
of course.


Nathan Woods is a poet and artist from Pennsylvania. He is proud of his red hair. You can find his writing at www.verynoturgent.com.

Mental Health - Other


By Abigail Regier

God one time took my hand
it was the middle of the night
and I was very upset about the
loss of a friend but didn’t know to
call it that because I didn’t want
to bother my father.
He walked me through the
emptied city streets
homes gone silent with the
sleeping, the anethesized,
buildings attached to electrical wires.
We walked for miles until we got
to the country where I saw
a family of deer running from
headlights and raccoons
stealing gnawed lamb chops from
the outdoor garbage.
He showed me the end.
I saw the end.
Then he left me to figure
out my way back home.
This is my pre-existing condition.



Abigail Regier has worked  as a reporter and writer for radio for  over a decade.  A graduate of Columbia University, she was born and raised in New York City.

There are many different types of mental health conditions, and two people may be diagnosed with the same condition only to display it in completely different ways. Also, many conditions that we associate with physical illness are also associated with mental health. To learn more and explore the wide field of mental health, please visit MentalHealth.gov.


News Update

Hi, folks! I’ve been in the process of moving and getting ready to spend a couple of months doing research and visiting relatives in Portugal, so things have been kind of hectic and I haven’t gotten to fully sort through the submissions I have hanging in my email. However, I don’t want to go too long without posting anything, so here’s a news/features update on the American Health Care Act.

The Atlantic ran a good piece yesterday titled “How Kids Would Fare Under the American Health Care Act” that highlights the parts of the bill that would allow for states to cap funding specifically for children and pregnant women. The bill has the potential to thrash Medicaid, which would be devastating to children, particularly kids from low-income families or kids with special needs. I have an acquaintance whose son has neuroblastoma. His life shouldn’t be in jeopardy at all, but it definitely shouldn’t be in jeopardy because of insurance coverage.

Earlier today in New Orleans, a group of activists staged a “die-in” at Tulane Medical Center. Many of the protestors were aligned with the group Indivisible, and the funeral-themed rally was meant to convey the potential loss of coverage, which could result easily in loss of life, being threatened via the AHCA. Some of the protestors showed up dressed as the Grim Reaper or holding signs shaped like tombstones. A full news feature ran on www.bestofneworleans.com.

According to Healthcare Finance News, Senate Republicans are seriously reconsidering the American Health Care Act. This feature, which ran on May 17th, claims that Senate Finance Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch has said that he would not mind holding off the repeal of the ACA mandate until 2020, or indefinitely, and that several Republican Senators agree. The article also states that the Congressional Budget Office is set to release the expected costs and impacts of the AHCA on Monday, which would be the 22nd.

Please, if you like the idea of this site, keep sending me your writing. Keep sending me your gut-wrenching lines about life on the edge of a pre-existing condition. Keep sending me you heartwarming hopes for the future, too. And most importantly, keep standing up for each other in the face of a government that seems to care much more about the fiscal bottom line than about the people they are meant to serve.

Also, while it is unrelated to healthcare, I’d like to draw your attention to the global attacks against LGBT rights, particularly the situation in Texas and the situation in Chechnya right now, which I’ve written about on my personal blog here. (Then again, considering that some places are listing “transsexualism” as a pre-existing condition, LGBT rights definitely belong here too.)

Go forth and do good.


Seizing Life

By Stephen Piorkowski

Caught in a brain that shuts down
Spinning around to the ground
Is anyone around to help me?

Falling down on pavement and scar myself
Seizure shaken on the ground

Nightmares, seizures
happen in my sleep
Blood on my pillow  in pain I weep

Woken feeling weak, memory lost
unaware of my surroundings looking for some thought , anything barely I can speak

Start my day in a haze
Not remembering a single phrase

in a place nobody wants
Should I let go

Seizures My License to Drive Taken
strength to walk and bicycle for miles
My only way to keep independent

For the hope that my seizures won’t happen again
Please nderstand  my friend  I don’t want to Traumatize You
Seeing the pain that you visualize I can not forget that nightmare seen in your eyes
You can leave me for our friendship to end because I understand

Cast aside from people that can’t handle a disability
Caught in a lifetime of nightmares that even occur during the day

Never feeling that I will ever be released from seizures that never cease
Wanting to move forward to be a normal person

Conscious of my road blocks
Triggers of Epilepsy liken to a Trigger of a Gun must rest, take medicine and take brain test

Feel the darkness all around me, falling in a deep hole that traps
Darkness of Death Near, Void of Memory and filled with Fear
Injury on a blood-stained pavement, I’m peeled away by EMT
Faint sounds of sirens Flashing Red Lights, I’m not conscious surrounded by fright

Pain that I cannot feel from injuries my body reveals
Mind shut down rebooting like a computer but shattered and never working
Noticing the woman across the room Crying in horror viewing me as I come to
The pain and blood all written on my face the scars will remain,
my past Images me in a Mirror unscarred   I will never replace

Doctors and Nurses secure me tight in a bed, I can only sense by past painful memories why I’m here
Feeling the need to hide because I feel fear, not wanting anyone to know why I’m here
my life’s independence will be taken from me, I’m the victim of this seizure tragedy

It’s coming back I know this fear, it’s a smell, sound and lights that bring the seizure near
Sensing my fear in the pit of my stomach travelling up to my brain happening to me again
Auras of Lights, Smells and Sounds that are not there
Deeper into Darkness I Despair

Should I go on and sometimes I feel I can’t
Cursed with a life of epilepsy
My life challenges me constantly
My Hope remains in the Darkest of Days
Focused on the Brightest I am Stronger of my Challenges





Stephen Piorkowski graduated from Schenectady County Community College in May 2016 with a Dual Concentration in Culinary Arts and Baking. Stephen returned to complete a second degree in Hotel and Restaurant Management and will finish this May 2017. In the Fall of 2017 he will be enrolling in the Human Services Program. Stephen has been living with epilepsy since the age of 2 and shares his passion for helping others through his involvement in the Studio Art Therapy Program and Adult Support Group for the Epilepsy Foundation of Northeastern NY as well as being an avid advocate and spokesperson.


To learn more about epilepsy, please visit the Epilepsy Foundation.


Dear Paul Ryan

By Jacqueline Jules

After you’ve carried out your promises
to the American people,
I hope you’ll come to the chemo clinic with me.

Wait in my seat—rigid blue plastic,
stainless steel frame, comforting
as the flicker of fluorescent tubes
from the popcorn ceiling.

Notice how the legs of your chair
wobble on uneven green tile
while you listen
on a dying cell phone
to a bean counter at Blue Cross
explain why you don’t deserve
the drug your doctor prescribed.

Feel the bones
up and down your spine
burst into flames.

Then you can come home with me.
Sip canned soup at my table,
littered with pre-existing bills
for care no longer covered.

And you can tell me again
why you are so pleased
to be the face of the political party
which proudly proclaims
all life is precious
as long as no taxes protect it.





Jacqueline Jules is the author of the poetry chapbooks, Field Trip to the Museum, Stronger Than Cleopatra, and Itzhak Perlman’s Broken String. Her work has appeared in over 100 publications including The New Verse News, Potomac Review, Innisfree Poetry Journal, Little Patuxent Review, and Gargoyle. She is also the author of 40 books for young readers.


“Dear Paul Ryan” appeared previously in a slightly altered form in The New Verse News, and it is reposted here with the author’s permission.