Wikileaks Heroine — Ode to Chelsea Manning by Steve Nebel

by Leslie Anne Mcilroy

The young soldier sits in her cell.
She doesn’t feel like a soldier anymore.
They have taken away her uniform.
They have taken away her freedom.
Someone somewhere had said that she lived in the land of the “free.”
Now she lives in the land of the incarcerated.
Now she lives in a small room where only hate resides.
She only sees her guards, but they don’t see her.
She has become the symbol of all that they despise.
One day she was a free soldier
But that was beginning to feel like iron bars.
That was beginning to feel like steel jaws.
That was a place where she was
But it wasn’t a place where she wanted to be.
Now it feels like that was a green field
Where you could run forever
And never feel any pain.
There was pain, and you couldn’t run anywhere
Except to the Post Exchange
Or the enlisted men’s club
Or an apartment off the base where there was no one home
When you came home from the grey, homely walls of the military base.
Don’t ask, and damned sure don’t tell.
That’s what they told you.
She doesn’t feel like a person … really.
She feels like a green uniform filled up with
An organism.
They keep you in a petri dish.
They keep you in a glass box of dimunition.
Before the prison walls she was beaten
Because they knew what she was.
She was beaten repeatedly.
Beat the queer little soldier.
Hey, queer little soldier!
You’re queer!
You’re not one of us.
You’re just a little queer.
We don’t even think you’re a real human being.
Now they have her just where they want her.
They have her in a cell where they can torture her
Day in and day out.
She is a symbol of their own shortcomings.
She is a bloody chicken come home to roost.
She is the wikileaks hero.
Don’t ask, don’t tell about the blood
And the rifles
And the dead mothers lying in the road to Baghdad.
Don’t tell about the soldiers playing with their guns,
The cowards shooting innocents
From their helicopter door.
Don’t tell the secret that in war
Young men go crazy.
Don’t talk about the blood after the guts were spilled in the road.
The fear numbed their feelings
Until all they felt was anger.
Don’t talk about the testosterone filled youthful nights
With world class weapons
And the anger of seeing friends faces viscerated
By the heat and force of roadside bombs.
Don’t ask, don’t tell.
And here you are now
Marinating in the hatred of an entire country.
You are the wikileaks heroine
You wonder if you will
ever see the light of a free day


Picture of Steve Nebel

Steve Nebel is a poet and songwriter who lives in Tacoma, Washington. He has been called an "environmental" poet, referring to his early work. His reading of his poem, "Cityscape" was recently featured in the Laureate Listening Project, a poetry project initiated by Tacoma's poet laureate. He was educated in the "Bohemian Arts" at The Evergreen State College in Olympia, WA. Steve writes songs and sings them with an Americana band, and is the guitarist in his wife's band, "Cowgirl's Dream". He and his wife recieved a social justice award from a local organization in January, 2015.