Coming of Age in Baghdad

Noah Rosenberg, SOM ’12

Grand Prize Winner 2012 Gerald F. Berlin Creative Writing Award

His father had always risen before him,
so early that it seemed like he never slept.
That morning, he kissed his father goodbye,
feeling the familiar rasp of his dark beard.
The streets lay still, a lull in the march
of empire after empire conquering the city.
The sun awakened sleepy street children,
who slinked like stray cats into shadows.
Already, patients gathered at the mouth
of the hospital, seeking succor and shade.
First came those with the severest debility,
and second, he saw those who were poorest.
The assistant boy ran toward him.
“Please, there’s been a stroke, sir.”
So early in his training, it was his first,
but he showed confidence, as he was taught.
The boy quickly wheeled the patient to him,
his uneven face framed by thick black hair.
Closed eyes, still lips, silent plea:
It was his father’s face in prayer.
Fear grew in him like the swiftest cancer.
Until now, he had been a young boy,
stitching wounds and setting fractures
for an endless army of broken men.
The boy had stayed with him, helped him
avoid becoming a wracked man.
Now, his father’s face appeared changed,
like a newborn, unused to gravity’s pull.
The son knew he must save his father,
and the man believed he would.