Learning to ride, falling down, getting back on
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Our armies do not come into your cities and lands as conquerors or enemies, but as liberators.
— General F.S. Maude,
commander of the British colonial forces in Iraq, 1914
Apparently the little girl is dead.
In Basra, bombed to rubble by the Yanks,
her stricken father cradles her small head.
Her right foot dangles, ghastly, by a thread.
Cluster bombs & F-16s & tanks.
That is to say the little girl is dead
whose fingers curl (small hand brushed with blood)
as if to clutch his larger hand. He drinks
her — sobbing — in, & cradles her small head,
& rocks her in his arms, the final bed
but one in which she’ll lie. The father clings,
as if his broken daughter were not dead,
her face, as if in sleep, becalmed, but red,
bloodied, bruised. At bottom left, the ranks
of those still dying die beneath her head.
Legions of the Lords of Plunder: the dread
angel of empire offers you thanks!
Look, if you dare! See? The child is dead.
Her stricken father cradles her small head.