Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Mustard Gas

Mustard Gas

from Pat Clifford (2006), Embracing Brings You Back, Coteau Books 

Returning home from France,

their throats and lungs burned out, spent soldiers share

my life: bone-cracked exhaustion, baldness, retching, mouth sores and the curse

of cramping diarrhea.


It took some smart American nerve gas scientists to put

two and two together over coffee, I imagine, brewed on Bunsen flames.

Guts and hair grow fast. As do cancer cells, so: why not? When we’re finished

with the Germans we can hit that other fucking shit, no?


My television shouts Iraq but I don’t need to travel half a world

away for the chemistry of mass destruction. My only hope

for survival squats in the sterile fluorescence of the Cancer Day 

Care unit ten kilometers from my home, waiting.

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