Hektoen International

A Journal of Medical Humanities


Ken Williams
Cambria, CA, USA


 Agent Orange being sprayed during the Vietnam War
Triple canopy jungle stripped bare by Agent Orange

weighing his heels
slowing his pace
doctor enters
Face gray with worry
body tight with knowledge
my wife’s grip tightens

Blood count wrong
responding not
they’ve done all
says he,
also, “You must let go
of the guilt”

He exits
my wife
“You must let go
of the guilt,”
says she

I must let go of the guilt
I admonish myself
after all
I was merely a grunt
A Marine
young kid with a gun
Not I
who dropped the napalm
frying that boy’s body
devouring that young mother’s face

Let me know how
I let go of the guilt
a lifetime of memories
a lifetime of nightmares

How do I
sever a bond
stronger than diamonds
more resolute than steel
more enduring
than life itself

A bond gluing together
in this life
the next
A bond of guilt
that kills
those who caught its

I must let go
of the guilt
Please tell me how
before it’s to late



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.


Summer 2017  |  Sections  |  Poetry

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