Monday, March 11, 2013

 I liked this poem by Martin Bates (poet, and publisher at Whiteadder Press)

Photo opportunity 

I tear up the paper to light the fire 
attending to domestic detail 
and trying to forget the war. 
But a crumpled photo starts in me 
a slow burn. 

The caption says “British soldiers 
stand over the bodies of dead Iraqis 
killed during the assault on Al Faw peninsula”. 
I flatten the picture, turn back a tear. 
The desert looks cold, sordid. 

I see rubble, a discarded blanket, cartridges 
and, beyond, a blockhouse 
of rough cut stone 
a sagging metal bed 
crazy aerials and barbed wire. 

The two soldiers stand at ease 
perhaps summoned for a photo op. 
They look a trifle dusty, our chaps 
but trim enough  
in fashionable camouflage 

designer helmets, goggles 
pouches and weaponry 
posing as it were 
in ango-saxon attitudes 
to peer into a hole 

where two bodies 
lie crunched, shapeless - 

conscripts, most likely 
ordered to crouch in this hole 
point their rifles at the sea - 
not much threat to anyone 
a forlorn hope. 

The agency saves us  
from seeing their faces. 

But what the caption does not mention: 
shoved up from one corner of the hole 
desperately fashioned from rag and stick 
lies a white flag 

This ignorance burns cold in my belly 
as I crouch again to strike the match. 

(23rd March 2003) 

(Note: “forlorn hope” derives from the Dutch verloren hoop = lost troop  
- soldiers cut off from the main force.) 

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