Towson University The Sniper Poem Discussion

Reflection and Multidisciplinary Questions:

1. You’ve just read three different poems by three different caregivers. Pick one of the poems. What do you think that poet has to say about how war can affect individuals from a health perspective?

2. We’re about more than a quarter of the way through this class already. How has your perspective changed about the main subject of this class, “war”?

Gerardo Mena (Former Special Forces corpsman)

Insurgent

I killed you this morning.

Wait.

I was brought before you. Called upon to nurse your filthy wounds.

I was asked to ease your discomfort in the remaining time

you had on earth. The tender welts across your back revealed how

Iraqi Police questioned you, and why you confessed

to your crime so quickly. You were just a boy. Lucky to own

sixteen years under your olive skin. I bet you felt invincible. Maybe

even brave. The dull opaque color of your hip bone, visible

through the infected hole left by the bullet, whispered

you only had days to live. I begged God to be there when it

happened. I didn’t hate you for what you did. I didn’t feel much

of anything except burning curiosity. I wanted to unzip you and

place pointy labeled flags into your organs. I needed to see

if your eyes turned to bliss

or fire. 

Frederick Foote (Retired U.S. Navy physician)

The Hurt Fedayeen

We shot him through the chest, and now we’re saving his life;

it seems absurd, but that’s what Americans do—

blow a place apart, then put it together again,

pretending it’s good as new.

We won’t recall his face, he’s just a pin in the map

on which, day after day, the war’s reborn—

there’s always a clean glass eye, a limb from the rack,

a fresh martyr to mourn,

while past the sandbagged door, there on the camera set

where CNN packs up the network news,

the maimed world lurches by, calling out for bread,

unwilling to die of wounds.

Carolyn A. Surrick (Music therapist)

The Sniper

I.

What am I supposed to do now?

He is thirty-three years old and was a Special Forces sniper for

fourteen years. The longest consecutive number of months that he

was not in a combat zone in those fourteen years was four months.

He was good at his job. Very good. Until he was blown up.

He was a right-eyed, left-handed shooter. Now he is blind and

deaf on his right side, walks with a cane, and can’t bend his ring

finger and little finger on his left hand.

They gave him a clerical job while he was recuperating. They

told him where and when to show up. They never saw him.

He was there all day but they never saw him. They never saw

him because that was what his job used to be. He used to be

invisible. 

II.

He said “Did you hear about what happened last year?”

A shrink finished a session with some guy

Went up to the roof

And jumped off.

III.

Major Nidal Malik Hasan (terrorist, psychiatrist, formerly stationed here)

13 dead

32 injured

45 people shot

IV.

the day after Major Nidal Malik Hasan

opened fire at Fort Hood

my sniper’s friends

sat right in front of me

while I played

they didn’t usually 

they might slow down 

as they passed

but they wouldn’t stop

and listen

but on this day 

they couldn’t find

their friend, my sniper

and by the time he walked

through the automatic glass doors

one of the friends was almost frantic

Where were you last night?

I looked everywhere.

I couldn’t find you.

I looked for you until after midnight.

I went out, he said calmly

I went out for a couple of beers.

But I couldn’t find you.

I looked for you everywhere

his eyes betrayed his panic

I took the metro and went to a pub.

What’s the big deal?

his friend had reached his wits’ end

You’re a SNIPER, he almost yelled

As if that explained everything.

V.

They stayed right in front of me while I played that day, the sixth 

of November, 2009. Their talk was crazy. Off the hook. Paranoid.

Self-righteous. I had never heard them like that before.

When a buddy walked up on my sniper’s blind side to bum a

cigarette, and tapped him on the shoulder, I thought, someone

is going to die today. My sniper raised his hand to do damage

to whatever stranger had touched him, and his buddy held both

his hands in the air and said, “Hey it’s only me. I just wanted a

cigarette!”

He said, looking his buddy in the eye, Don’t Ever Do That Again

and then rubbed his hands together to keep me from seeing 

them shake. 

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