Signs

The drums beat on as we clear our ears and wait
on answers Blair can't give. We question what
he thinks he means. The children of Baghdad
sleep on, air hums with lessons hard
to understand, like a dose of napalm. Vietnam
haunts our past, horrors we can't name
or even bear to think about: a girl
stripped of skin with open hands. The gall
is what enrages most, although we too
legitimise those things we know they do.

Perhaps we have invoked the Lionheart,
a rampage through those countless other lives,
sanctified within the vicious heat 
of his belief; profit legalised
by a sword or suicide bomber in a car
intent on virgins and the peace they bring.
A girdling up, existence past all care
of infants in the dust, their stare benign,
bewildered by that blightedness the race
to covet souls and oil seems to embrace.

It's said we've seen this many times before.
Take Potemkin's rage against the far
from certain Turks, Napoleon in Egypt,
the Siege of Stalingrad when Hitler groped 
the deadly teats of Mother Russia,
Mai Lai, Verdun, Gallipoli's southern shore;
a carpet laid with young and fragile flesh
consumed before the Gorgon's staring flash.
We take account of what is dearly paid,
this disequivalence of the betrayed.

I was raised with names my dad took from his dead
two comrades, lying still beneath the sand
they fell upon, carrying out the deed
commissioned from a bunkered Thames. They send
these young men in their place to fight the fiend.
They told young Arthur Wesney his place in time
is assured by sacrifice; a theme refined
by martyrs ever heading to their tombs.
Young David Baker's limbs spread by a mine
foreshadowed Laos, Cambodia, Palestine.