The American Journal of Poetry
"Strong Rx Medicine"®


Michael Salcman

Blown Up


Three thousand pounds of explosive
packed in a truck make a big noise.
Blown up into the air
like a rubber ball while conscious
then knocked out by flying debris
one hundred yards away in a building,
he starts having headaches that won’t quit.
They wake him up at night or the flashbacks do.

This is the thing, he’s thirty-three
and he'll go right back to Iraq if I make him well,
back to Fallujah or some dark mountain in Afghanistan
where IEDs first brought silence to his brain
ten years past and now a suicide bomber has struck him
a fourth time in-theater, his stateside nights disturbed
by the noise of unwanted memory in a man
as big as a tree sworn to protect someone small like me.

When we shake, I disappear in a cushiony nest, the hand
of this quiet giant who weeps on my examining table.
They call it a theater of operations as if it were a play.
Now the dark well of his head stores the scenery
and special effects, the bright star of pain shooting behind
his left temple, the anxious shards of liquefied glass
and shadows made of sand. PTSD.
This will pass I say, without hope that it will.




MICHAEL SALCMAN was chairman of neurosurgery at the University of Maryland and president of the Contemporary Museum in Baltimore. Poems appear in Alaska Quarterly Review, Hopkins Review, Hudson Review, New Letters and Poet Lore. Books include The Clock Made of Confetti (Orchises, 2007), nominated for The Poets' Prize, The Enemy of Good is Better (Orchises, 2011), Poetry in Medicine, his anthology of classic and contemporary poems on doctors, patients, illness & healing (Persea Books, 2015), and A Prague Spring, Before & After, winner of the 2015 Sinclair Poetry Prize from Evening Street Press (2016).



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