Poetry Month: The Hospital Ships (Sarracino)

The Hospital Ships

They might have freighted the exotic
(ebony, cinnamon, porcelain, camphor)
from the port cities to small uptown towns.
But these days they carry farmboys, mostly.
Like this load of New Yorkers in stacked
white hammocks stained red, none of whom
ever before traveled 20 miles from home.

Under the crescent moon the ships
churn into Baltimore harbor, slowly rocking,
creaking, so that many of the boys, dreamy
with anodynes, smile into their mother’s faces.

Some will be delivered dead. Others
without the hands, left, feet and arms dropped
beside the surgeons’ tables for burial in pits.
Many expected to heal in days will die.

Soiled gauze must be removed, slough washed off,
fresh lint and bandages reapplied. The boys will need
someone to write a letter, read the Bible, someone
to return the next day, and promise to return again.

This time of night in Baltimore
whorehouses and barrooms ring with revelry
(the good citizens all tucked long since abed)
as these ships steam in from Chancellorsville.

At the end of Wharf 6, in the dark,
a sack of oranges at his feet,
Walt Whitman stands waiting.

– Carmine Sarracino, from The Idea of the Ordinary


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s