The U.S. Invades Iraq, on American TV
Thumb the plastic bar molded to fit your palm,
turn up the volume, Your nation will soon be free—
George Bush on Iraqi TV's new Western broadcast,
Nahwa Al-Hurieh, Toward Freedom,
CNN's omniscient eye sweeping over palaces'
shiny nude paintings, Fantasy art,
the broadcaster declaims—
channel skid and Jennifer Lopez shimmies bikini fringe
on velvet dunes, a manicured hand fondles gold chains,
white-tailed deer crashes through the gleaming bulge
of suburban bay windows, scene replayed to a laugh track's
crescendo, window healed and leap reversed,
window healed and leap reversed.
Hit "Return" and a star is pinned on a soldier's lapel,
officer punching the young man's chest with rapid,
stern affection, Euphrates on fire, museum scraped clean
of knick knacks carved by hands that invented the wheel,
held cups that hid in hot sand seven thousand years
and are shoved now, in canvas bags, crates cracked
on another continent, bidding in motion.
This is war, Rumsfeld says, and stuff happens,
stuff on prime time shared with eight men holding roses,
kneeling before a woman with chestnut curls
who narrows her choice to Pete, unemployed,
and publicist Mike—back to news and It's Day 17.
The noose is tightening, dagger aimed
at the heart of Saddam's regime.
We are penetrating Basra, sledgehammer
cracking a walnut—
bombers buzz over Samawah, flares fitful
on tiled roofs, tanks belly deep in rubble,
blizzards of paper dumped from jet-lacerated skies,
cartoons flashing goofy Saddam kicked from cartoon Iraq,
35 million Arabs watching their own newscasters
decrying the American Imperialist dream,
the invasion of an Arab state—commentator
raising his hands: Who's next? Syria? Iran?,
viewers bolting doors, jet twisting on the tarmac,
car exploding at checkpoint, Iraqi airport declared
strategic real estate by an American reporter,
just 12 miles from Baghdad's Grand Hotel,
the hotel's vaulted lobby littered
with fallen columns, shards of plate glass
and palm fronds peeled raw—
coverage interrupted by the World Poker Open,
cards flashing on a green velvet table,
war on hold for hilarity, dancers falling off the stage,
grandma losing her teeth in a piña colada—
then the good news, family in South L.A.
cheering Private First Class Elsa,
enlisted thanks to Executive Order,
Green Card no problem, the teenager's walls
pinned with posters of a college's friendly fortress—
all-expenses-paid—and citizenship bestowed,
in event of death,
Saddam's statue toppled head first,
catacombs rank with urine,
soldiers cautious as cats, flashlights scouring
blood-seasoned walls, audience invited to join them
in Stress Debriefing Circles, canvas
translucent as eggshell, sun-burned youth observing,
You can't solve your problems with an M-16.
That family we mowed down, that lady that survived,
we had to listen to her cry for four or five hours—
Cut to lady that survived.
Cut to jerky footage from a hand-held camera.
Cut to a woman who could have stepped
from any stoop in Brooklyn, tugging at her T-shirt
with its bold Fila logo, chin-length, dark hair
swinging as she sways and wails, her husband's
familiar body zipped into darkness, her son's
small torso shredded where it once was smooth,
no detail private, or out of range.