Issue 25 – 2014 – Jennifer Pierson

Jennifer Pierson


from Dispatches from the (War) Hospital


Nightwatch One

But in their brilliance angels do not lift us above our ruinance.


you arrive in the night

your body laid down and wait


a hand or a shoulder braces it

grief moves through us



our bodies lift your stretcher oh


the body moves the heart the hands how

rough they love


             (a careless angel hovers)

On the Way

no I

             lost it

along the way with blood and a lung


no reach for air


can no more take all I need in nor

wait to see home again


ants scurry to repair my open bones


my wife’s



they say you hear in a coma but

no words come in


my neck’s



river flowing


               blue lights



it’s not the flat black you think

Post Traumatic Stress

holding you

your lanky


body shaking

above the chair


we place you in


never have we seen

such shaking


              offering you

now this garland


mass flow’ring

of forgetting

On the Bus

his head his

neck slashed


black: the cuts

               elegiac a

               scarf of loss


humanness seeps out



as he turns

his cheek to show

the impeded bullet





he moves his mouth to say hello

Third Week in Iraq

Remote though your death days after denies us breath


last week’s manifest

your name crossed off


               too unstable:

bloodied lungs/shrapneled clavicle


we expected you

to fly to us


on the near-next arrival



this morning papers

wave your name/face


body unmanifest

to us untouched


(Shane Mahaffee, died May 2006)




another seepage of sorrow

from off the shoulders of

               a mother

               a brother

seated away from us


out in the open the

father rigid


               for the


              of his son


(here come the angels asleep again lifting their burden)


2 AM


Bring us alluvial

air to take in

clear us of dying


             Bad memory walks

             beside us


when we watch unbreathable

many and their arbitrary

wounded confused brethren


Oh wash us away our sins



the bone-saw with its necessary

teeth cutting flesh


flesh itself

flayed & falling off


the great gush of blood

splayed to the wall


the floor

sprayed with redred gauze


and here the seized-open-with-steel-claws

chest how righteous piteous


the heart and oh

infected the blemished


bones organs


(now nearing the sad mouth smell of loss)

Rushing/Balad Hospital/Arrival

Kick-up of sand/wind//


All is shadowed/then

the whick-whick of blades

as the helicopter lands


The medic rushes down/a bundle in his arms/rushes


to the medic/rushing/to take the bundle from his arms//


A foot




Blood and sorrow-pain/’s

carried into bright light //


Sunday night


stretchers lined up in bright light


                               medics grow sleepy on them


a supervisor grimaces


then static becomes life


as two busloads of wounded pull up





How do you


look at a soldier


             whose left


eye’s gone missing?



Jennifer Pierson is a lifelong pacifist. During the height of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, 2004-2009, she was an AerVac volunteer at Walter Reed Army Medical Center, greeting and caring for the incoming wounded and their families. She teaches poetry to retirees at American University in Washington, DC.