Hektoen International

A Journal of Medical Humanities

White Coats

Ken Williams
Cambria, California, United States


White coats hustle by
nurses of compassion
their gentle, sideway smiles frozen
combating war’s legacy

Blood counts fall
White cells
Red cells
Agent Orange rages

Gulf War Syndrome
Agent Orange, Blue
other colors, deadly rainbow
Burn off trash heaps
pick our poison

Plastic tubes stained red
sucked into
veins corrupted with Dow’s tainted blood
My blood
not abstract
Robbing denial
it’s soothing salve

part of something bigger then
as disabled vets
standing alone
Except for
soul mates
who signed on
for none of this

Golden sunset
turned scorching red
deadly black
fiery napalm, Satan’s foul breath
torching wedding vows

To die in war,
or years later
delayed payment plan
A lonely proposition

A wife left alone
children orphaned
idealism critical in I.C.U.s
across the land
Abandoned vets
Code Blue
We asked
for none of this

War’s parting gifts
alone we suffer and die
because you wish
it that way



KEN WILLIAMS worked as a social worker for the homeless in Santa Barbara. He won numerous awards for his dedication. His writings have appeared in Columbia Journal, Cecile’s Magazine, the Huffington Post, The Potomac A journal of Poetry and Politics, The Criterion, Mobius, Better Than Starbucks, The Fear of Monkeys, VietNow, Scars Productions, The Creative Truth, noozhawk, Down In The Dirt Magazine, Slab Lit., The Good Men Project, S/tick Magazine, Mag. U. Penn, Santa Barbara Independent, and others both domestic and abroad. He is a disabled combat Marine veteran of the Vietnam War. His most recent novel: Fractured Angel.


Spring 2017   |  Sections  |  Poetry

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