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Sunday, February 17, 2013


by Laura Shovan

Image source: Transition Force, US Army Garrison, Fort McClellan, Alabama

This is a really beautiful camp.
I found George in excellent health.

                                    Please help.
I was stationed at Fort McClellan.
I have developed a symptom of passing out.
Doctors called it "Syncope".
None of them could figure out
what caused it. 

Hi my name is: _____
I went through Basic training
in Echo 1 company. We had to go through
that building they called the Gas Chamber.
Does anybody know what type of gas
or chemical was in there?

I want to hear from you.
We were exposed to toxic substances,
big time. The McClellan Cocktail:
depleted Uranium, Sarin gas, mustard gas,
and let's not forget that old standby,
Agent Orange.

                                    I drove track vehicles
through dust and mud, unknowing the danger.
I taught troops to make the smoke
that covered the base, was told Fog Oil SGF2
was harmless. We breathed it in for hours.
I went thru the live nerve agent chamber.
They drew blood to check us but never
told us why.

                                    I was face down
in toxic-smelling stuff on the firing range.
They sprayed stuff to keep the bugs away.
They sprayed us in the "gas chamber,"
said I had "sensitive skin" when I broke out
in weeping blisters and dizzy spells.
We were "just women." It's a damn shame
they couldn't tell us what we were
crawling around in.

                                    Tell you more
when I get home.

Author’s note: This is a found poem. The italics in this poem are taken from a used postcard, cancelled in 1944. All of the stanzas not italicized are taken directly from blogs and internet postings by veterans who trained at Fort McClellan. I deleted a word here and there, but have not changed the vets’ language.

Editor of Little Patuxent Review, Laura Shovan was a finalist for the 2012 Rita Dove Poetry Award. Her chapbook, Mountain, Log, Salt and Stone, won the Harriss Poetry Prize. She edited Life in Me Like Grass on Fire: Love Poems and co-edited Voices Fly: An Anthology of Exercises and Poems from the Maryland State Arts Council Artist-in-Residence Program, for which she teaches. In January and February, 2013, Laura is blogging 44 poems inspired by antique postcards at