Art & Poetry in Medicine, Clinical, Featured, Intern Year, Internal Medicine
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Please Stop Saying Thank You

The following manuscript was submitted to the November 2017 Military Medicine theme issue.

You are so soft
in voice and touch,
gliding through
the mines that are set in
all conversations
with hard men.

But you have no Sight
that can see that far
into the past,
that can smooth
the rough patch
lasting for God
knows how long,
despite lovers
and children.

Broken bottles
and cigarettes:,
a stale smell
that speaks of love and loss
of country.
Smells of
gone the way of
the former soldier.
In another life,
glorious and shining
in victory.

For love,
for pride,
for country,
for you.

Who now sits
on a throne of refuse,
among other things that were
discarded and lost.
Those who sent him off
casting eyes everywhere but there,
to the side,
just above,
avoiding the face
of what this true soldier
has become.

So please stop saying thank you

and that you
and that you
appreciate all
that I have done.
Stop with the soft voice
and the easy reassurance
that there is a future
for me when

I am dying
With belly swollen and taut,
Gravid with memories
I have drowned in bourbon.

There is no future

Just as there is no present,
only the past
invading with shined boots at night.
Or through singed and raw wisp
reminiscent of burnt toast
left too long.
Or through flashes of the Sight
of things best forgotten
with those empty bottles
full not so long ago.

So please stop saying thank you

because to this country,
to myself,
I have been dead for years.

Mr. S was a gentleman who served in the Vietnam war for three tours only to return to a country divided by the horrors of war. Events broadcast over network television for the first time brought the realities of war into their living rooms. It was no longer a glorious and distant act in the name of patriotism, but rather a destructive force that affected families not so different from their own. This piece is an attempt to capture the sense of betrayal and doubt that he faced on his return from the very people he believed he was serving in the name of his country.

Image credit: Vietnam Veterans Memorial by Howard Ignatius licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0.

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.