Monday, July 2, 2012

Draft Process: 11 General Orders of a Sentry

83º ~ what? yes, 83º, much cloud-cover and a cooling breeze, a high of only 95º predicted, still no rain


Darn it if I didn't do it again.  I drafted a new poem today based on yesterday's military inspiration.  Since I've closed out my June residency, I've been taking things at a more relaxed pace, and I thought that today I might just gather some research by reading more "General Orders" to get a sense of the military rhythm and syntax. 

When one Googles "General Orders," what one finds are numerous links to the "11 General Orders of a Sentry" for the Army, Navy, and Marines.  At first I kept trying to dig deeper, wanting to find more language like the language from Confederate Army General Orders 17.  I did find their General Orders 14 which called on slave owners to conscript a certain percentage of their male slaves into service for the Confederate Army.  Wow.  Of course I know of the Union Army's offer of freedom to slaves who served, but I hadn't heard about this effort on the part of the Confederacy to supplement their dwindling ranks.  The layers of brutality there are so many it blows my mind.

But I digress.  While I may go back to the language of General Orders 14, today I kept going back to those "11 General Orders of a Sentry."  I was bummed because the language is so plain and the series of imperative so boring.  I looked at a couple of word banks to see if I could get a spark.  And then, it dawned on me: a sentry is the equivalent of a nurse in the sickly speaker's universe.  Click!

Here's the first line.

To take charge of this fevered body and all its possessions.

The rest of the poem (the list of the remaining 10 imperatives), tries to describe the nurse's power and lack of power in relationship to the whitecoats.  Hmmmm.  That's interesting.  The poem from yesterday gives orders to the whitecoats; this one to the nurses.  I suppose I could do one more that give orders to the mystics, the last group of folks with whom the sickly speaker interacts.

This turn toward the military feels quite natural.  I've been describing the manuscript to other folks as an exploration of the "medical-industrial complex," of course playing off Eisenhower's "military-industrial complex" speech.  I know the comparison there is not precise, but it's getting clearer, and I think I need to re-read that speech.  Perhaps that will spark the mystics' orders?

Here's a GI standing sentry in Iraq, thanks to Wikimedia Commons.  Now, imagine that vigilance in the nurse standing over the sickly speaker.


6 comments:

Kathleen said...

A thrill to read of the "click!" moment.

Sandy Longhorn said...

Thanks, Kathleen!

Tawnysha Greene said...

Very interesting! I like how this is coming together! Sounds fascinating so far.

Sandy Longhorn said...

Thanks, Tawnysha. It's been a wild ride so far. :)

Quintilian B. Nasty said...

Interesting thoughts, Sandy. I've read about the Confederacy replenishing their ranks with slaves, but I had not known the specific orders. Sounds like the writing is going well.

Sandy Longhorn said...

Thanks, Q. It has been a thrilling ride so far.