It’s All One Thing # 2: A Poem for Chelsea Manning

You answered my prayer.
You released trump card truth.
You provided the missing links,
the fine grain of fact that cannot be denied,
what we deserved from the first,
the public record that they always keep,
the public record that always belongs to all of us,
the truth that actually always does come out
and now actually sooner than in the past.

I was so grateful and at once so afraid for you.
Oh, I knew how angry they would be.
After all, you made their war crimes into fact.
Just at the most basic level they all had to admit
that what they had been saying was not true.
They had in these daily incident reports kept a record
of over 100,000 violent events in which Iraqis died.
This was a larger count than any previously available.
There were still of thousand of Iraqis who wanted to know about their missing
sons, daughters, mothers , fathers, uncle, aunt, niece, nephew, good friend, loved ones
whose story might be in those memos and that’s not to mention the weekly reports
of our own troops of torture and abuse of the Iraqi puppet government put up by
sectarian elections that mandated a civil war just because of those torture centers
set up by a private contractor reporting directly to Sec of Defense Rumsfeld
with a liaison from C.O. Gen. David Petraeus in charge of training Iraqi police and                                                                                                                   security forces (2004).

Oh, how I really hoped they wouldn’t find you.
But you, of course, being you would just as certainly have to tell someone.
After all, that seems to be how you survived and survive
when no one would accept who you really are.
It must have been so bad growing up knowing
probably much too young what you face.
Somehow though you always seem to know what to do,
the right thing is the only thing, the one thing left to do.
Somehow, however they might try to contain you, you popped up
whether in cargo container solitary confinement in Kuwait
or indeed in a solitary confinement cell in Quantico , for Chrissake
who would believe it they had you (but then they always had you)
standing there in how prophetic a night dress just like the “Johnnies” we used to call them
of the homeless shelter where I worked the locker room, showers and dorms
this institutional remnant left over from Bridgewater or some other survival
of when mental hospitals and prisons first crossed over each other
so that you were left standing there more naked than naked under that loose garment.
And you were just waiting there, somehow waiting to get out
if only to be liberated to general population at Leavenworth the military prison
and then a virtual show trial at Quantico again
where they march you both in and out, in and out
from some giant sports utility vehicle between what seems to be
the most massive huge muscled he-men armored in Kevlar
with you shuffling along shackled somehow still smiling,
attempting to look around, and indeed make eye contact
between the grasping fists of the rushing Goliaths
whose grim visages accentuate your small open smiling face.

Of course, the trial is a complete farce where the real issue of the crimes
you have documented are really entirely barred from the proceeding.
The prosecution presents secret evidence that the defense can not see
while the prosecutors have veto power over witnesses requested by the defense
giving them complete control over the information in the whole trial.
Behind them sits an alphabet soup cabal of security state agency apparatchiks
who by the end of the trial by ordeal have had the aiding the enemy charge thrown out
(with its life without parole sentence) while the 136 years on the old Espionage Act
have been reduced to ninety years by the judge and then to 60 years by request of the                                                                                                                               prosecution
so that the actual 35 year sentence is a miracle compared to all this draconian travesty.
Why you might at 24 worst case get out at 59 and that is without even considering time                                                                                                                                   served
over three years already and then there was that reduction of sentence automatic
because really you know you should have had the whole prosecution thrown out
because they tortured you too for those first ten months of your detention
(and what made, oh so diminutive you so dangerous, they had to lock away so long)
way past the military’s own mandated limits for a speedy trial.

And then as they take you away looking out to us again after your non-day in court
after you explained how you had been treated and why you did what you had to do
and again looking out to us in that picture in a wig, a “selfie” you sent to your C.O.
to let all of us know who you really were in this photo put into evidence by your lawyer
to tell us what you would say openly eventually, “I’m Chelsea manning”, wherever you
put me, whatever you do, “I’m Chelsea Manning” and I’m going to live as Chelsea
                                                                                                                                         Manning.

Yes, and no one can touch her, no one can touch her if she doesn’t want them to
because all her life she had to act as if she was somebody else.

 

James Van Looy has been a fixture in Boston’s poetry venues since the 1970s. He is a member of Cosmic Spelunker Theater and has run poetry workshops for Boston area homeless people at Pine Street Inn and St. Francis House since 1992. His work appears weekly in Oddball Magazine.

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