Hospital Tent by Tony Barnstone

I looked around the scene, and saw the men,
some dead, some twisting on the tables, smell
of antiseptic, smell of blood, and then
I looked outside where more waited. I tell
you I knew nothing of the Philippines,
of mangoes, houses on stilts, nipa huts,
the smell of copra in the air, gangrene
and amputations, lice, the surgeon’s cuts
I had to sew back up, of carabao,
the glisten of the small steel instruments
catching the glint of lantern light, red pile
of gauze. But still I never cried
until this day, when (I did not see how)
my hand was grabbed as I passed by, intent,
by a young man, who gave me a half smile
and held on as if for his life. Then died.

(U.S. Navy Nurse, the Philippines, 1942)


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