“Summer Memory” by Pauline Hebert

Pauline Hebert


After the peace, after the broken
loves and failed career,
after the too many moves,
the too many hospitals, so sure
of their cures,
after the therapy, the falling naked
through the glass, after the therapy,
their long incantations into futility,
after the other man,
the thousand moments of rage
in his heart, after the ring,
the broken pacts, the lies,
all around us like roaches,
we survived on the edge,
trying somehow to live together.
My sister, brother climb
to the shuttered cottage
where I stay secluded.
I try to make them see
I can’t be a lunatic,
but here—somehow,
among the birds and trees,
the man’s trappings strewn
indecently over the furniture,
among the animals—we answer to no one,
somehow—here, is a future.
Today my brother pats my cheek
as if to relive the past
the times I beat the odds
when the war had not intruded
in the black days of the ’60s,
and my sister hugs me,
all but an illusive hope
of recovery left,
or no longer for me, that wish.

from Rattle #13, Summer 2000
Tribute to Soldier Poets


Pauline Hebert: “As a young registered nurse, I signed a two-year direct contract and volunteered for a tour in Vietnam with the Army Nurse Corps. I arrived there two weeks before the 1968 Tet Offensive. Retired after a long career nursing, I now spend a lot of time bird watching. I’ve written poetry since I was able to hold a pencil, and it has been my lifeline to the world, helping me to find meaning in my everyday experience.”

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