I Don’t Want to Die Here in Timbuktu

October 21, 2020
Richard M. Berlin, MD

Volume 37,

He was happy in a Gettysburg field, before he turned 13. That was the year his father’s body launched its own Civil War.

POETRY of the Times

I want to die in Gettysburg, PA

on the soft green flank of Little Round Top

where General Pickett led his charge.

I was happy there one afternoon

before I turned thirteen, the year

my father’s body launched its own Civil War,

trees glowing pumpkin and scarlet,

my mink-coated mother beaming

at her husband in his houndstooth jacket.

We were at peace, ten thousand dead

and thirty thousand wounded

as impossible to imagine as the carnage

my father would brave a few months later,

distant drums stirring the first steps

in my long march to become a doctor,

my battle to save him, a surgeon’s scalpel

trained on his belly like a bayonet.

Dr Berlin is Instructor in Psychiatry, University of Massachusetts Medical School, Worcester.

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