photo by james barros
Julia Stein is co-author of the upcoming non-fiction book Shooting Women: Behind the Camera, Around the World (London, 2015). She has published five books of poetry, the latest which is What Are They Like. She has edited two books of poetry: Walking Through a River of Fire: 100 Years of Triangle Fire Poetry and Every Day Is an Act of Resistance: Selected Poems of Carol Tarlen.
His Chest Full of Medals
When my brother in the rehab hospital got a fistful of
they shoved him out and called his placement a "success,"
when Justin LaFerrier, army physical therapist,
had Sergeant Cain wheeled out,
after he had lost half a leg to a bomb in Iraq,
Cain was put through hours of exercises
on bars and racks to build up his muscles.
and my brother daily took a new drug that attacked his body,
sat two hours a day in a wheelchair,
rode his stationary bike two hours a day,
a soldier alone, fighting to get strong.
I want to give my brother a Purple Heart
for being wounded by enemy action of
an incompetent pharmacist giving him the wrong drugs.
I want to give my brother a Combat Infantryman Badge
for surviving sixty days of combat
starting with the emergency room that never found out what was wrong,
leaving him close to death,
for battling all the nurses,
unable to give him his drugs on time,
wrecking the delicate chemical balance his body needed,
labeling him a troublemaker,
for the daily taking of a new drug that attacked him,
sticking it out, fighting every hour for his life.
I tell the social worker, See my brother,
the hero with his chest covered with medals.