Thursday, December 16, 2010

Wed. Challenge Poetic Asides prompt "receipt"

Receiving the Verdict

He went into the fray a child
In fact, still a child, was captured,
Badly injured, hospitalised for a good
Long time, but, still considered a child

Or at least that was the world view
But somewhere along the line
There was a shift in attitude
Of such magnitude it was a sea-change

The subject of all the attention
Had little or no idea about his situation
Having been shot twice in the back
Wounded in his shoulder and both eyes

The only survivor of a firefight wherein
He threw a grenade that killed a U.S.
Soldier – the only witness to this act?
The child-soldier, the only survivor ...

The circles grow more eccentric
And concentric as the tale expands
And rumours of torture become fact
Sleep deprivation, water boarding ...

Whatever it took to make the child-soldier
Now considered by his captors, a murderer
A most unusual description for any
Individual involved in war, admittedly

Confess – confess? In war? Confess?
To what? Fighting for the other side?
Is that not a given? Does this make sense?
Not to the rest of the world, but they

Stayed silent – all of them, including
The country of his origin – Canada
Silent – as the Geneva Convention was
Trampled and trashed, ignored completely

To what end, one could be forgiven
For wondering where this was headed
For this one child growing into manhood
In the oh-so-infamous Gitmo

Finally, it becomes apparent, he must
Stand trial and he must plead guilty
To murder for throwing a grenade
That killed an American soldier

Even though he has long recanted
That confession, having made it under
Extreme duress – read torture – even
Though the tribunal has had to invent

A whole new term just to know what
To call this person so they can charge
Him and take him to court – they had
No title for such a one as this – no surprise

So, the newly created “enemy combatant”
Grew to learn that if he continued to claim his
‘Not guilty’ status and was found guilty
 By the courts or a jury, a certainty, it seemed

He would remain in an American jail
For the rest of his life – this, after over
Eight years of incarceration already
Just to get this far – so he, who has sworn

He will never plead guilty finally gets it
If he has a hope in hell of ever seeing
His mother again, or Canada, flawed
As that country has proven to be

It still offers a gentler outcome than the one
That has been housing him – or so he hopes
He will have to plead guilty – jump
Through the hoops placed before him

Or resign himself to dying, rotting away
Inside the American jails – there is going
To be no rescue, no matter how hard his
Lawyer works or how many people write

Letters on his behalf; so finally, he steels
Himself, tells them he will do what they want
He will sign the papers, stand up in court
Admit to being guilty – he prays to Allah

To forgive him for the lie, hopes he will
Be forgiven for it, but knows that he cannot
Spend the next sixty years – he could live
That long, he knows it – where he is right now

Still, the day it happens, his voice sounds
Loud and unrecognizable in his ears
The words are strange and ring wrong
But he forces them past his lips, gets them said

He barely hears all the extra things they
Have added on to the charges; the only
Real thing that happens that day is the apology
He makes to the widow and family

Of the soldier that was killed by the grenade
He threw – they glare at him as if it just
Happened; they hate him, he can tell
But he really is sorry just the same

He stands again when the judge reads the verdict
And thinks to himself, he never expected
To be in receipt of a guilty verdict but
Here it was, he was being found guilty

And even more ludicrous, he was being
Sentenced to forty long years in prison
His knees buckle at that, but his lawyer
Helps his stand tall still and he knows

That it is just a number, there has been
A deal made with the Canadian government
To apply for his transfer within a year
To a prison north of the border with a promise

For clemency – that is a much more moderate
Sentence, if he can just hang on and believe
He has to believe it will work out
He wonders if he has just made the mistake

Of all mistakes but quickly shoves the thought
Away and lets hope crawl into his mind
Tries to keep the tears from falling
Tries to stand on his own, stop trembling.


  1. Your poem made me weep. Yes, I knew such things went on, but you have made the reality of an unjust war altogether too clear for comfort. Please publish this somewhere where those who do these things can read it. Or send a copy personally to the so-called great and good.

    BTW the line "Helps his stand tall still and he knows" - should this be Helps him stand tall still?

  2. yes - it should 'him'- thanks Viv - it's a typo and one I meant to correct; I'm working on a chapbook about this young man who is growing steadily old in prison ... I am studying non-fiction with a prof who is assembling essays about this child's injustices and her passion has become my own, I'm afraid - unfortunately, his childhood has been eaten away by incarceration and it doesn't look like that will be ending anytime soon ...