For Chelsea Manning, on her 28th Birthday by Sarah Clancy

At 22 I wasn’t much more than a playground

for ideas other people fed me.

I was three years away from even

being brave enough
 to explore my own identity.

It was years more before I stopped that navel gazing

and took a quick look outwards

and I’m still failing to come to terms with that at forty,

but you, at that age could gather the courage

and the words to say that as a solitary soldier

washed up in an army of macho war porn and murder

you wouldn’t stand for it,

as a loner in a theatre of torn up conventions,

of water-boarding, of torture,

you wouldn’t stay silent.

At twenty two, a kid, and right in the thick of things

you made it clear you hadn’t been fooled

by the all pervasive culture that says

there are times when it’s AOK to re-name humans

as nuts and bolt collateral.

Chelsea when they charged you in the military court

you made no Nuremberg excuses

of how someone made you do it,

and you didn’t spout on about flags or orders or duty

at twenty five you could condemn

an army for its war crimes for

its murders of civilians and children

and you could act on it despite the consequences

you could reclaim the meanings for us
of words like courage and justice,

now that’s what I call service;

someday I hope your country (and ours!)

will grow up and deserve it

happy birthday Chelsea
lets hope that

for your next one you’ll be free.

And P.S Edward Snowden, keep on running!

To Support Chelsea see

Sarah Clancy is The Bogmans Cannon People’s Poetry Champion