Inside the Chicago Veteran's Medical Center

by Peg Bresnahan

When Irvie returned home to Chicago after D-Day,
he drove a delivery truck from the Union Stockyard
slaughterhouse to butcher shops around the city.

He steered that old truck, hauled the same smells
of fear he’d breathed for forty years, kept abattoirs
locked inside his temporal lobe, the memories

a tag around his neck—mines, German steel
tetrahedrons wedged in sand along shore, ramps,
barbed wire, shrapnel still black in his back.

Peg Bresnahan's second collection of poetry, In a Country None of Us Called Home, was published by Press 53 in 2014. When the book was released, Garrison Keillor read the title poem on The Writer's Almanac and another poem from that collection this spring. Peg received her MFA from Vermont College of Fine Arts in Montpelier. She moved to Cedar Mountain, North Carolina, from Sturgeon Bay, Wisconsin, twelve years ago.

About Inside the Chicago Veterans’ Medical Center—This poem was at least twice as long, filled with information no one needed to know. Thanks to workshop suggestions, I whacked it down to what the story is really about—an example of a WWII vet and how his PTSD wasn’t acknowledged. Uncle Irvie began having nightmares in his sixties when he developed Alzheimer’s and later died in a VA hospital.