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Written during the first Gulf War

To a Civilian Casualty

You have been kept to
an absolute minimum.

Desert StormThe ministers
raise their clean hands.
No more questions.

This madman Hussein’s
beyond the pale,
him and his white horse.

Meanwhile Madam Russia
turns over in bed,
crushing her little ones.

Saddam can be relied on
to pour oil on
troubled waters.

The Mother of Battles
makes ready to suckle.
Blood trickles from the nipple.

The B52s roll out the red carpet.
She lies down in the grit,
she spreads her arms

and licks the marine sergeant’s ear,
whispering, After 28 days
of combat 98 per cent

of frontline troops
are psychologically debilitated
and require evacuation.

That just leaves the one
in fifty; that just means
mad to you and me, soldier.

I’m telling you this
because I have a clear
and objective view of the war

whereas yours has been partial
and distorted
since your roof fell on you.

I see wet rust
falling out of a head.
I see a Bush speaking

between two bundles of firewood,
in letters of gold on the wall.

John Gibbens

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