Oakland Knowles Naval Hospital

— Nick Butterfield

I recall the works of the Unibomber.
The skin of his hands hung loosely like
A tent badly built.

The story was the Unibomber left what looked like
A sack lunch next to a computer terminal
On the nearby Berkeley Campus.

The Naval Graduate was studying close to the
Brown paper bag when it blew.

He came
Regularly for skin grafts and rehab.
I remember
The strong smell of iodine and shiny sterile floors
In which germs were not permitted.

Looking back, the Hospital we called Oak a Kno
was a ship that
Would take me to new places from where I came.

A friend of mine who was a Corpsman like me
Spoke like he was from Jamaica, but he wasn’t.
He turned out to be a local native from a neighborhood

The Hospital I saw on T.V. was recently demolished
In a series of neatly organized explosions.

My experiences there salted the rest of my career,
The salt from an Ocean I never saw, not far from here.

One thought on “Oakland Knowles Naval Hospital

  1. I love the juxtaposition of the "explosions," the violent and reckless work of the Unibomber that begins the poems and the "neatly organized explosions" to bring down the old hospital at the end. Like in life, this poem leaves lasting impressions and unanswered questions that haunt you. It is in poetry that we try to make sense and meaning of the ghosts that haunt us.

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