Can We Believe Them?
My boy slid away into Iraq.
he leaped across the shimmering sands
into Tikrit. he didn't know where he was going
but he went.
they said they would not call him,
they said they were saving all the good boys for last.
he went. smiles and cheers and a mass of waving.
he blew away my tears with his blown kiss.
God knows—I prayed for him day and night,
God knows I knelt before that Iraqi horizon.
God knew I wanted him back.
they said they would not call him.
his house became a paper tent on a tin desert floor.
he wrote sweet letters that smelt of myrrh.
I could taste the bitter balm.
he said things to me he had never said before.
the last letter had sand wedged in between the vowels.
I could smell death all about the pages.
felt damp blood behind the postage stamp.
I hugged his invisible DNA on the notes.
I tasted his words and savoured them like the dessert at the Last Supper,
that he wrote—
just before they got him
between a lost page in the last Koran.
and my receiving the warm greetings
from the Defense Department
sneaking in like a bleak summer wind,
in my war torn ears
that my boy was not coming back.
the sentence was terse.
the sentence was emphatic.
they seemed to try hard.
signed by some general or other.
I thought the general could have been nicer.
their uniforms are so clean and pressed
and all those blinking medals
should make you feel at ease.
NOT COMING BACK, the pale billet said;
Then continued without mercy:
ARRANGE TO COLLECT KIT AT THE NEAREST STATION TO BAGHDAD.
can I believe them?
they had said they would not call him.
they didn't even thank me for giving them my boy.
I thought that was cruel,
I who had never killed an ant in my life.