Up from the valley came the faint rattle of gunfire

and the distant cries of ISIS fighters charging on Raqqa.

From my vantage-point I had a view of the battle.

I was a new recruit, an American, not yet ready

for engagement with the enemy — too raw for hand-to-hand combat.

I spent days wandering unnoticed, ungreeted, and disdained, an alien

in a hostile land, tolerated but unwelcome — a suspect convert.

I strayed, like a lost soul, through an unreal desert,

ears ringing to conversations held in an annoying foreign tongue.

I longed for another American, for a word in English.

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Paraphrases from the novel Running Elk by Rex Ellingwood Beach.

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