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.