Art & Poetry in Medicine, Clinical, Featured, Intern Year, Internal Medicine
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The following manuscript was submitted to the November 2017 Military Medicine theme issue.

I have always wanted to fly
but they wouldn’t let me
until I signed a contract
built on blood and tears
that happen in silent moments
thinking of bones,
china white,
resting there for a couple years.
Probably more out there,
newish but maybe old.

We just didn’t know
the extent to which
black-hearted men,
soft and silky
in voice
but hard inside,
stone on stone
not amenable to carving,
had found revelry.

Society said no
until it said yes,
and we went to battle
with the blooms
laid out in crimson,
melting the snow.

But most memorable
were skeletons of the past
and present,
china white
with blue mouths open
in silent accusation.

I just wanted to fly,
to soar through the air
like swallows
that dart and dab.

I didn’t fly long,
and then I saw
only the remnants left
with blue mouths open
in winter’s embrace.
Snow softly falling
on women holding children,
a carapace of sorts
for the souls
that soared
not like swallows
but like birds of prey,
gliding and angular
eyes sharp and yellow,
As if the world behind
didn’t really matter anyway.

the point of the story is
I never flew again.

Mr. H was an exceptional storyteller who was able to describe the events surrounding his detainment during World War II in such detail that I was inspired to write this poem. He was a pilot who crashed in Eastern Europe during World War II and was detained by German soldiers as a prisoner of war, alongside Jewish families. He was witness to the brutality of human nature as he watched women, children, and fellow soldiers freeze to death in the harsh winter he spent as a prisoner. He was stoic while recalling his experiences apart from silent tears that would track down his face as he described the horrors of war he had lived through. I wrote this poem with the intention of highlighting the emotional transition from an enthusiastic young man hoping to live his dream of becoming a pilot to a man aged beyond his years after experiencing the depths to which humanity can sink during times of war.

Image credit: U.S. Air Force licensed under the public domain.

Bridget McNulty, MD Bridget McNulty, MD (2 Posts)

Resident Physician Contributing Writer

University of Washington School of Medicine

Bridget McNulty is an intern with the internal medicine residency program at the University of Washington School of Medicine. Her main interest lies in the intersection between medicine and psychiatry. She's been writing poetry and short works of fiction since her angsty teenage years. She enjoys karaoke, horror movies and doing stand up comedy on random weekday nights.