Poem: A Well-Aimed Shot, from University of Utah's Writing on War class
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This poem was written by student Michael Cumming in Writing on War, WRTG3019, at the University of Utah.

Well-Aimed Shot

By Michael Cumming

Crunchy, brown, dried up grass covers the ground.

The stench of rotting trash and sewage fills the air.

The sun blazes down, baking my motionless body.

Sweat drips into my eyes causing them to sting.

Lying on my stomach in the prone position

Body aching from having not moved for hours

Muscles tight as I hold my Kevlar weighted head up and

M-4 Carbine tightly and steadily in my shoulder.

A young Iraqi boy comes into view, 300 meters from my position

He pulls a shovel out of the ditch next to the road,

Looks around to see if anyone is watching

He has no idea that I am here

And begins to dig, slowly.

I hate what I have to do next.

He doesn't know better,

He isn't old enough to think for himself.

Such a young life, such a waste

If only he came from a family that wasn't so poor

Then maybe Al Qaeda wouldn't be able to buy him off

Then I wouldn't have to take,

Such a young life

Time to make the transition in my mind.

Time to dehumanize the enemy.

This is not a boy anymore,

Just a target

I rest my cheek on the butt-stock,

Line up the target in my sight,

Make sure I have a clear sight picture,

Make sure I have a good sight alignment.

Focus on the front sight post, not on the target

Steady breath now

Breathe in, breathe out

Exhale slowly, expend all air.

Slow steady, trigger squeeze

Don't jerk, don't anticipate the shot

Nice and smooth,

Crack!

The smell of carbon immediately fills my nostrils.

The empty casing flies out from the ejection port cover,

Flipping end over end through the air,

The hot piece of brass landing in the grass beside me.

I watch my target jerk like a deer as

The bullet tears through it,

Then turns and falls to the ground.

It's a good hit, target is down.

I watch my target wiggling

Writhing in pain in the dirt.

Stillness now, as he has given

Up the fight.

I wait to see if anyone else comes.

Five minutes, no one has shown up

My position is compromised,

It's time to move.

As I get up slowly from my position,

My mind begins to think of the target as a boy,

I can't allow that now, someday I will

Grieve for him and for me.