This poem was written by student Michael Cumming in Writing on War, WRTG3019, at the University of Utah.
By Michael Cumming
Crunchy, brown, dried up grass covers the ground.
The stench of rotting trash and sewage fills the air.
The sun blazes down, baking my motionless body.
Sweat drips into my eyes causing them to sting.
Lying on my stomach in the prone position
Body aching from having not moved for hours
Muscles tight as I hold my Kevlar weighted head up and
M-4 Carbine tightly and steadily in my shoulder.
A young Iraqi boy comes into view, 300 meters from my position
He pulls a shovel out of the ditch next to the road,
Looks around to see if anyone is watching
He has no idea that I am here
And begins to dig, slowly.
I hate what I have to do next.
He doesn't know better,
He isn't old enough to think for himself.
Such a young life, such a waste
If only he came from a family that wasn't so poor
Then maybe Al Qaeda wouldn't be able to buy him off
Then I wouldn't have to take,
Such a young life
Time to make the transition in my mind.
Time to dehumanize the enemy.
This is not a boy anymore,
Just a target
I rest my cheek on the butt-stock,
Line up the target in my sight,
Make sure I have a clear sight picture,
Make sure I have a good sight alignment.
Focus on the front sight post, not on the target
Steady breath now
Breathe in, breathe out
Exhale slowly, expend all air.
Slow steady, trigger squeeze
Don't jerk, don't anticipate the shot
Nice and smooth,
The smell of carbon immediately fills my nostrils.
The empty casing flies out from the ejection port cover,
Flipping end over end through the air,
The hot piece of brass landing in the grass beside me.
I watch my target jerk like a deer as
The bullet tears through it,
Then turns and falls to the ground.
It's a good hit, target is down.
I watch my target wiggling
Writhing in pain in the dirt.
Stillness now, as he has given
Up the fight.
I wait to see if anyone else comes.
Five minutes, no one has shown up
My position is compromised,
It's time to move.
As I get up slowly from my position,
My mind begins to think of the target as a boy,
I can't allow that now, someday I will
Grieve for him and for me.