Outflanked

Outflanked

A Poem by Robert Ray
"

Inspired by a veteran I heard talking about PTSD, and how he described his post-war addiction as being "outflanked" by new enemies (alcohol and pain pills). I've tried to capture that image here.

"

Hunkered down,

Walls surround,

 shrink

 with the sun.

Incoming!!!

Mortars left,

 right,

 overhead.

Outgunned,

Overrun,

Enemy inside

 the wire.

 

Whiskey shots,

Pill pops,

Surges of pain,

Fragmented brain.

Fallback!

Cover and move,

Return fire.

One shot,

Too many shots.

Friendly-fire.

Shooter down!



© 2018 Robert Ray



Author's Note

Robert Ray
Rough draft. Feedback, please.

My Review

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Featured Review

Well, I agree completely that the quick, jolting, stabbing lines imply the action associated with war and the effects of PTSD, stress, triggers and flashbacks.

That said, please keep in mind that I have been employed at various VA hospitals for numerous years and have close relatives and friends who have battled PTSD. It is one of the most misunderstood and mis-medicated conditions out there. Everyone is trying to fix something that is not fixable. Unfortunately, what I have seen working for the VA is a vastly inappropriate response to PTSD, traumatic brain injuries and other conditions and injuries incurred by time in combat and in service. Transitioning from military life to civilian life is such a culture shock for many of our veterans returning from war. They have faced visions and horrors that only warriors equipped for battle could take on. Civilians could never understand or fathom the depths of pain and the horrifying images that play through their minds. Babies screaming, babies slaughtered, mass piles of bodies carelessly strewn everywhere, the stench of death and feces rotting, a complete disconnect with humanity, your best friends and family members killed right before your eyes, survivor's guilt. None who have never faced these conditions have any remote idea the mental and emotional sacrifices of our veterans and multitudes of service men and women or those of anyone who risks their lives to defend ours and our freedoms. They all merit our deepest respect and gratitude. Sometimes, they deal with both mental and emotional scars as well as physical ones... and sometimes the mental and emotional scars translate into physical ones as other disorders and conditions manifest as a result of PTSD... anxiety, depression, bipolar, borderline, psychosis.. lack of sleep, difficulty with normal life processes.

Bottom line is those with PTSD need support. They need support systems, not pity or ignorance. Spouses, partners and family members need to get involved with their care.

What you describe here... that we have perfectly functioning (in fact, high-performing) men and women go to war, come back, not whole, in pain, get prescribed a bunch of meds, then get addicted to pharmaceutical narcotics.. can't feed the addiction fast enough with regulations, so they turn to cheaper alternatives: street drugs and alcohol. It is SO common with the veterans we serve at the VA, and so sad. They didn't ask to be this way. They weren't druggies or alcoholics before. But this system made them this way. Our broken system has failed our veterans.

What might be missing from this piece a bit.. is the fact that many who experience PTSD lead normal lives.. for the most part.. but much of the time, they are "on edge," paranoid with a heightened situational awareness, their minds almost always sharpened in anticipation of a threat. Military life conditioned them this way, and they don't know how to turn that switch off in their brain. But they usually only react when triggered, and understanding that each person who has PTSD has different triggers can help in anticipating the stress response, thereby helping to offer support and various methods of treatment. We all experience stress in different ways. Those with PTSD go from 0 to 60 when stressors come on.

Too much blame is placed on the individual with these conditions, and not enough understanding or even research is being done to help those incurring injuries/conditions sustained from their service to our country and our communities...

Thus, I believe your "friendly fire" line is so perfect. We did this to them! And we aren't helping! It's basically an amplified version of assisted suicide. So sad.

I am really glad that you wrote this and illuminated a prevalent and ignored issue.

Posted 1 Week Ago


1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

Robert Ray

4 Days Ago

Alexa, you captured so much more than I conveyed in this poem. You clearly understand it. Had I kn.. read more
Alexa Apothic Red

4 Days Ago

Oh, that's so nice.. you are probably right. Given all I've seen I probably should write on PTSD... .. read more
Alexa Apothic Red

4 Days Ago

Oh and this work is great on its own btw... it is this veteran's story. They may all have common thr.. read more



Reviews

A very intense poem here Robert. I see myself in the midst of combat actually saying those things in my mind. I can't imagine what people, who have survived through these events, actually feel now. Your poem is certainly another glimpse into the lives of people that serve our country well. It makes have all the more respect and compassion for them. Excellent work.

Posted 5 Days Ago


1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

Robert Ray

4 Days Ago

Thank you, Corey. I always enjoy reading your reviews. Sincerely appreciated!
Well, I agree completely that the quick, jolting, stabbing lines imply the action associated with war and the effects of PTSD, stress, triggers and flashbacks.

That said, please keep in mind that I have been employed at various VA hospitals for numerous years and have close relatives and friends who have battled PTSD. It is one of the most misunderstood and mis-medicated conditions out there. Everyone is trying to fix something that is not fixable. Unfortunately, what I have seen working for the VA is a vastly inappropriate response to PTSD, traumatic brain injuries and other conditions and injuries incurred by time in combat and in service. Transitioning from military life to civilian life is such a culture shock for many of our veterans returning from war. They have faced visions and horrors that only warriors equipped for battle could take on. Civilians could never understand or fathom the depths of pain and the horrifying images that play through their minds. Babies screaming, babies slaughtered, mass piles of bodies carelessly strewn everywhere, the stench of death and feces rotting, a complete disconnect with humanity, your best friends and family members killed right before your eyes, survivor's guilt. None who have never faced these conditions have any remote idea the mental and emotional sacrifices of our veterans and multitudes of service men and women or those of anyone who risks their lives to defend ours and our freedoms. They all merit our deepest respect and gratitude. Sometimes, they deal with both mental and emotional scars as well as physical ones... and sometimes the mental and emotional scars translate into physical ones as other disorders and conditions manifest as a result of PTSD... anxiety, depression, bipolar, borderline, psychosis.. lack of sleep, difficulty with normal life processes.

Bottom line is those with PTSD need support. They need support systems, not pity or ignorance. Spouses, partners and family members need to get involved with their care.

What you describe here... that we have perfectly functioning (in fact, high-performing) men and women go to war, come back, not whole, in pain, get prescribed a bunch of meds, then get addicted to pharmaceutical narcotics.. can't feed the addiction fast enough with regulations, so they turn to cheaper alternatives: street drugs and alcohol. It is SO common with the veterans we serve at the VA, and so sad. They didn't ask to be this way. They weren't druggies or alcoholics before. But this system made them this way. Our broken system has failed our veterans.

What might be missing from this piece a bit.. is the fact that many who experience PTSD lead normal lives.. for the most part.. but much of the time, they are "on edge," paranoid with a heightened situational awareness, their minds almost always sharpened in anticipation of a threat. Military life conditioned them this way, and they don't know how to turn that switch off in their brain. But they usually only react when triggered, and understanding that each person who has PTSD has different triggers can help in anticipating the stress response, thereby helping to offer support and various methods of treatment. We all experience stress in different ways. Those with PTSD go from 0 to 60 when stressors come on.

Too much blame is placed on the individual with these conditions, and not enough understanding or even research is being done to help those incurring injuries/conditions sustained from their service to our country and our communities...

Thus, I believe your "friendly fire" line is so perfect. We did this to them! And we aren't helping! It's basically an amplified version of assisted suicide. So sad.

I am really glad that you wrote this and illuminated a prevalent and ignored issue.

Posted 1 Week Ago


1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

Robert Ray

4 Days Ago

Alexa, you captured so much more than I conveyed in this poem. You clearly understand it. Had I kn.. read more
Alexa Apothic Red

4 Days Ago

Oh, that's so nice.. you are probably right. Given all I've seen I probably should write on PTSD... .. read more
Alexa Apothic Red

4 Days Ago

Oh and this work is great on its own btw... it is this veteran's story. They may all have common thr.. read more
Powerful.this is a real issue for real veterans everywhere.this
is exceptionally written and the imagery of the words settle directly to my soul.GREAT JOB!!

Posted 1 Week Ago


1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

Robert Ray

1 Week Ago

Thank you, KC. It's good to see you got the essence of this piece. Much appreciated!
I confess, your intro explanation would be necessary for me to put this together into a cohesive whole. But not a drawback -- I like this exactly becuz it's a sketchy bombardment of sensations, as it might feel to be in battle, then return home to another battle. I especially love the way you honor this veteran's actual way of putting it: "outflanked" . . . & your parallel between the two battlefields is well done & vivid, with lots of sensory imagery for all the senses (((HUGS))) Fondly, Margie

Posted 1 Week Ago


1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

Robert Ray

1 Week Ago

Margie, I appreciate your comments about the introductory comments. I was concerned when I wrote th.. read more
barleygirl

1 Week Ago

Normally I'm very reluctant to give reading guidelines for my stuff, but there are many on this webs.. read more
Having only 1-3 words per line is good because that shows the frantic nature of war, when it actually happened and during flashbacks. The lack of elaboration intensifies the feeling there is no time to think, only to react. Why would the walls shrink with the sun?

Posted 2 Weeks Ago


1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

Robert Ray

2 Weeks Ago

Thanks for your comments on the structure and number of words. That was my goal. It's good to see y.. read more
I have so many thoughts about PTSD and your exceptional writing... I am coming back to this one to review when I have a little more time. Thanks for the invite!

Posted 2 Weeks Ago


1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

Robert Ray

2 Weeks Ago

Thanks, Alexa. I look forward to reading your review.
I really like the concept and literary delivery of this poem, how you blended the post-war addiction with what might be considered flashbacks, or being flanked, "outflanked by new enemies" as the veteran put it. I think you handled the inspiration in an engaging, interesting and effective way. The way the piece was structured, short punchy lines, sometimes disjointed and disconnected with one another, almost adrenaline fueled thoughts or something, like the speaker of the poem can't string a full sentence together because of the intensity of the onslaught from new enemies. I thought you effectively and subtly worked in the references to drugs and alcohol, not making it so blatant that the war allusion is lost, but noticeable enough so even someone without the context you provided in the description might catch on. Just as a note, I never read the description until I've read the piece once and given it some thought on my own, that way the poem isn't spoiled and I'm not forced to think along someone's intended lines of inspiration. It's certainly good information to have, but I think a good poem doesn't need it. I didn't need it for this piece, but it was affirming to read after the fact.

If I could be so bold as to offer my thoughts on a specific criticism I had, as you requested in my last review, I would point to these three lines:
"Outflanked…
Outgunned…
Overrun…"
I thought the words were perfectly fine and the fact that they each held their own line would be effective at keeping the pace up, but i'm not one hundred percent sure what the intention was with "..." after each word. When I read "..." i usually pause as it signifies a moment of contemplation or thought occurring in the speakers mind and also shared by the reader, so basically when I read the poem, it was fast paced and energetic and building speed up until those three lines which confused me a little pace-wise. The words and the fact that there was only one word per line made me want to just keep reading through it, but observing the punctuation forced me to slow down and disrupted the intensity of the poem. If that was the intention, then disregard this critique and well done. Maybe it's just me, but that's just how I always tend to read the dot-dot-dot. If it's just me, ignore me lol. In lieu of the "...", in order to keep pace up, I might suggest a comma, or no punctuation at all for those three lines. I think this would also apply to the line "Return fire..." as I thought the ellipsis (that's the word lol, i couldn't think of it) didn't really suit the idea of returning fire, maybe it seemed unenergetic and too suggestive of contemplation or something, I don't really know.

Anyway, I certainly couldn't say what your intention was in that moment of the piece and I'm perfectly content to go with what you've written and interpret it that way, but in the interest of some, hopefully, constructive criticism, I thought I'd share that thought.

If I'm being completely honest, I often find it difficult to offer specific critiques of poetry because when I read a piece, especially by an author who knows what they're doing and is very creative like yourself, I defer to what they have written and am completely happy to accept it at face value. I just feel like offering specific critiques of poetry is like mind reading at times and/or like imposing my own agenda on a piece that is structured, built and crafted in a way unique only to it's author. Neither mind reading nor imposing myself on another artist's work appeals to me. That being said, I understand that we are all 'amateur' poets here (it's in quotations because, what really separates a professional from an amateur besides recognition and regular paycheck? It's all art at the end of the day and who can objectively say some is better than others? I digress) and are often looking to better our work with feedback from the community. So with that in mind, I hope my suggestions are taken as only that, suggestions not impositions, and that they might be helpful to you in some way. If it's okay with you, I will make a point to read your work with a critical eye for such suggestions in the interest of giving you what you came for, if that makes any sense:P Just thought I'd share my thoughts on critiques with you so you know why I ramble around the points sometimes. Maybe I'm over sensitive. *shrugs*

Another really great draft of a poem that I look forward to seeing progress and develop. A really great concept and well delivered, I thought. Thanks for sharing it Robert!

Hailey

Posted 2 Weeks Ago


1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

Robert Ray

2 Weeks Ago

Hailey, I apologize for the delayed reply. As you're probably aware, this site has been down most o.. read more
I started reading this at a normal speed but after a moment my heart rate started going fast as did my reading. Wow scary and kinda cool that a poem can do this to you.

Posted 2 Weeks Ago


1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

Robert Ray

2 Weeks Ago

Thank you, Diane, for reading this one. I wanted the reader to feel that pace, and it's good to rea.. read more
Diane

2 Weeks Ago

Very welcome. I love when the adrenaline kicks in.
Tragically, a man who's been in battle rarely stops fighting those battles.
The unsettling sights and sounds lingering after such traumatic encounters often haunt him for the rest of his life.
Endless war can be his hellish destiny.
An excellent encapsulation!

Posted 2 Weeks Ago


1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

Robert Ray

2 Weeks Ago

Thanks much, Jimmy. Well said. I appreciate you taking time to read this one.

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262 Views
9 Reviews
Added on February 4, 2018
Last Updated on February 5, 2018
Tags: pills, addiction, veterans, combat, war, PTSD, alcohol, poem, poetry, free verse

Author

Robert Ray
Robert Ray

Madison, IN



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