Young Nurse, VA Hospital, 1945

Innocence, perhaps,
caused her to gasp and hold that memory for seventy years:

her leaning against the desk at the nurses’ station,
going over meds
with the head nurse,

then a young sailor rolling up in a wheelchair.
Could they give him something
for his pain?  His legs and feet are killing him.

She looks down at his scarred face,
his narrow shoulders wrapped in a khaki shawl,
his hands folded in his lap, then . . .

But I always knew what was coming, even the first time
I heard the story.  Her grimace tipped me off.

And each time the story was repeated –
often three times in one visit –

I chalked it off to senility.

Now looking over the house
with only a stick or two of mildewed furniture,
the sagging deck, the ragged yard,
the downed fence,

I see that story clearly as an explanation –

the two bandaged stumps
a warning against the pain of absence.

David Bottoms

David Bottoms

David Bottoms is the Amos Distinguished Chair in English Letters at Georgia State University. The author of eight books of poems, two novels, and a book of essays and interviews, his poems have appeared widely in magazines such as The New Yorker, The Atlantic, Harper's, Poetry, and The Paris Review, as well as in sixty anthologies and textbooks.

For twelve years the Poet Laureate of Georgia, he has received the Frederick Bock Prize and the Levinson Prize, both from Poetry magazine, an Ingram Merrill Award, an Award in Literature from the American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters, and fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts and the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation. He lives with his wife and daughter in Atlanta, and his new book of poems, Otherworld, Underworld, Prayer Porch, will be released by Copper Canyon Press in 2018.
David Bottoms

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Author: David Bottoms

David Bottoms is the Amos Distinguished Chair in English Letters at Georgia State University. The author of eight books of poems, two novels, and a book of essays and interviews, his poems have appeared widely in magazines such as The New Yorker, The Atlantic, Harper's, Poetry, and The Paris Review, as well as in sixty anthologies and textbooks. For twelve years the Poet Laureate of Georgia, he has received the Frederick Bock Prize and the Levinson Prize, both from Poetry magazine, an Ingram Merrill Award, an Award in Literature from the American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters, and fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts and the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation. He lives with his wife and daughter in Atlanta, and his new book of poems, Otherworld, Underworld, Prayer Porch, will be released by Copper Canyon Press in 2018.