The Insurgent


No one saw him climb over the Hesco*
barriers, so he just appeared and walked
under the lights where no one ever goes.
An actor who moves in my sleep, he talked
to the air, his hands tucked under his arms.
A boy who might have been cold or wired.
A cattle herder from the nearby farms
or Taliban out to plant an IED.
We knew the protocol of escalation,
hand signals, warning shots, the distance limit.
He walked, we fired—what was termed a precaution.
The boy was deaf, we learned, and slow-witted.
He was born the way we had learned to be.
No wind could lift that bloodied sand to sea.

Eliot Khalil Wilson,
2016 Sarah Lockwood Memorial winner

*Modern gabion–a collapsible wire mesh container and heavy duty fabric liner used as a temporary to semi-permanent levee or blast wall against explosions or small arms.

Eliot Khalil Wilson, on “The Insurgent”:
This poem works, if it can be said to work, by juxtaposing the technical limits of the sonnet form with a subject that is limitlessly sad and shameful and pitiful. My subject is war, and the pity of war, wrote Wilfred Owen. The poetry is in the pity. For me and for thousands of people, those words of Wilfred Owen do not contain the distance of an echo, though they were written nearly a century ago.



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