VA

My first job in the US
was at the VA Medical Center:
nights of the boxed breath
and the smell of stale piss,
chain-smokers, the collapsed lobes
overgrown by the relentless pink matter,
laryngless vets, talking in robot voices,
emaciated black guys in the men’s room,
puffing through the tracheostomy tubes,
a burn unit survivor
hit by a Kamikaze
at the very end.

The young Jewish doctors
were rotating for a year or two,
running around with syringes,
dispensing chemotherapy, then
disappearing into the green sponge
of the suburban universe.

My way back to the new rented home
was graced by a sunset that touched
crosses on the descending lawn
by the Soldiers’ Home, lit up
Rock Creek for a few minutes,
lingered pensively in the tree crowns
over the mansions at Connecticut Avenue,
then went underground somewhere
in Pennsylvania.

Around was the darkness
punctuated by a dialogue
between the towers on the flagships:
the Naval Hospital and the Mormon Temple,
guiding the large cargo planes,
gliding through the black milk
of the night breath toward
Andrews Air Force Base.

Nimrod International Journal, 7/07/05

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