Magazine article WLA ; War, Literature and the Arts

Nursing Home at the Veteran's Hospital

Magazine article WLA ; War, Literature and the Arts

Nursing Home at the Veteran's Hospital

Article excerpt

Col. Smith lies still while a nurse polishes

his skin with antiseptic soap. She hums

as he enjoys the way she bumps against him.

Residents enter the cafeteria after a field trip.

They recall the billboards along I-75

advertising messages from God.

Doctors on lunch break eat cheeseburgers

and fries as they ignore news of Syria.

They discuss treatment for erectile dysfunction.

A silent woman disguised in scrubs slips

into Mr. Sleap's room and steals the fentanyl patch

from his thigh-kissing his forehead first.

Across the hall, a married couple argues

over who gave who chlamydia. The husband straightens

the bronze star hanging from his chest.

Old men gather around the rec room's

piano, and like Odysseus, tell variations

of war stories, shipwrecks, homecomings . . .

packing list

we pack light when flying home

everything we own

we carry

how the smell of a soldier

shot in the head

smells like freshly caught fish

how skull fragments

found in the sand

look like dull, broken pearls

we carry artillery bombs

lighting up the sky in Morse code

while Muslim prayers cry on loudspeakers

images of children

playing in line with our front-site posts

their images blurred by cars in focus

the smell of copper balls

that punctures our armor

innocence and souls

as much as the letters from home do

the one where a wife or girlfriend

says goodbye forever

we pack the playful whistle

of incoming mortars falling down

day after day after day

we pick up our heaviest item

when landing in Dallas

this packing list is weightless

PHILLIP PITTS is a U. …

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