Friday, September 12, 2008

Friday Spontaneous Poem: 'Action in France'

From: Steven Shields
Sent: Thursday, September 11, 2008 9:57 AM
To: Keith Badowski
Subject: RE: Poetry Challenge?

Keith, have a look at the first photo in the blog I am keeping for our family history. It's entitled "Action in France" and can be found at There are lots of other photos there too--maybe something else strikes your fancy. This is what I've spent most of my summer doing, most of the past year or two actually. This blog is a small slice of it but maybe will prompt something. Hope all's otherwise well with you and yours--S.

Here's a link to the photo mentioned above.

3rd BN Infirmary, 26th INF. USA
(Charles Thorne, fifth from left

for Steven Shields

Those coarse white-washed bricks
and the crusty mortar in-between them,
every morning I opened my eyes in the dark
to escape that texture.

All night my dreams skittered like mice—
miniature hearts racing, anxious to preserve fur.
That morning I awoke breathless,
terror stricken that my mouth had scabbed shut.

My fingers sprang to my teeth, my tongue—
still there! Oh, yes,

I’ve patrolled the mouthless rows,
watched ribs stand in for jaws,
seen those who can not sneeze.

As the photographer posed me,
instructed the whole infantry where to place
arms and hands, so our bodies would not repeat,

I kept marching past rows of moaning blankets—
stubs of eroding trench feet poking out,
white pads draped over sightless sockets.

Against the bricks, I couldn’t hear them.
The nurses would tend to the bandages
while I stood stock still, held my breath for 26 and 3—
certain those bricks would grind me to dust.

Keith Badowski

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