Make Me What I’m Not

Captain Steidle enters the village,
The only American in the team of five.

He is welcomed
By a handful

Who survived because they were smart
Enough to play dead.

A woman, not yet twenty,
Brings her baby to him.

Captain Steidle is white, male; therefore,
In this place, to all who see him, a doctor.

He is not.

The baby had a bullet pierce his back:
A small wound below the shoulder

Where the bullet entered;
A larger wound, a mess of blood and skin

On the opposite side,
Just above the hip.

Captain Steidle speaks English to the woman,
Tells her to lay the baby down.

She does not understand.

He takes off his shirt,
Lays it on the ground,

Takes the baby from her, gently,
Gently lays the child there.

He wipes away what blood he can, takes the shirt,
Ties it tightly around the larger wound.

He shakes his head, again speaks English,
But not to her, not to anyone near,

And asks for help.

Brian Burmeister is Program Chair of English and Communication at Ashford University in Clinton, Iowa. He earned his MFA in Creative Writing and Environment from Iowa State University in 2010, and co-wrote the play-turned-book, Farmscape, published by Ice Cube Press.

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