Minutes, Abu Ghraib Prison, October 18, 2003
I. US Soldier, 12:06 pm
In the latrine, slipping off the panties
I wore under tan fatigues, I think back
to what my mother told me the first time
I'd been with a man, then, again,
the day I enlisted. You can give him
everything and, even after you do,
he will find ways to ask for more.
II. POW, 11:43 am
I am naked, being straddled by a small woman,
the Velcro on her pants scratches my thighs.
It could have easily been her fingernails
raking across my skin. I could have wanted this,
if she were not my enemy and young enough
to remind me of my eldest daughter. I am at war
with her country and my body—
my confused penis, my tied hands.
I have never been beneath a woman,
I tell her with my eyes, my lips pursed
with curses, tongue thick with prayer.
III. US Soldier, 12:09 pm
I consider rinsing them in the metal sink,
before stuffing them into the jacket pocket
that holds my name. Sergeant said
to bring them back quick, that he needed more props.
All the world's a stage, I think, remembering
a line from the high school play I was in last spring,
then alter my face, check the dull mirror looking for
anger, conceit, no shame.
IV. POW, 11:47 am
When he orders her up and off, I see him
pull her aside. At first, I think he will grab her
hair or redden her cheek with the back of his hand.
He does none of this. His teeth almost touch
her ear as he whispers, his hand cups
the small of her bottom. I watch them
until she catches my gaze while leaving—
a smile softening her hard cheeks. I search her
changing mouth for mercy, but find only spit
glazing my chin, nose and lips.
V. US Soldier, 11:51 am
If there were room for weakness
none of us would make it home.
I can't think of this man's family—the children
holding fast to his arms and legs
in the picture we took from his pocket.
Instead, I think of the other photo—his family's men
aligned on the grass, behind them only fragments
of women. I counted five heads, two elbows,
one shoe and think of how he'd treat me
if I were his silent wife—the woman
almost bowing behind him. No mercy, just fire
leaves my mouth.
VI. POW, 12:12 pm
How can I return home
having felt an unbridled woman?
Having had soldiers clip leather
around my neck and tug
until I rose to my feet? Having
heard the click and flash of their cameras,
their laughter? Having seen her return,
patting a small lump on her chest and at his nod,
pull out cotton briefs—much like the ones
my wife wears to bed, moving my hands to their elastic
lace in the dark? Having swallowed the stinging
acid in my throat? Having endured her hands
stroking my bare chest? Having suffered unnatural
blindness as she placed her underwear
over my head like a hijab?
Taditional head covering worn by Muslim women
Note: During Operation Iraqi Freedom, photos were published from Abu Ghraib Prison in Iraq showing US soldiers (male and female) demeaning and torturing Iraqi prisoners of war.