Tony Grist (poliphilo) wrote,
Tony Grist

War Diary Part 2




I don’t suppose it’s any surprise

To have it confirmed that the world is run

By the men of war.


                             It’s one of those dusty

Early spring days just before the leaves open.

Sat on the grass in a Manchester square,

I think how the sunshiny glass and the frosty

Plumes of the fountains were brought to us

Courtesy of the IRA

And their very big bomb.


                                      You kick a city

To bits and then it grows back again

Better. As Baghdad will. And the dead

Who are not dead yet as I write but will be

Dead by the time I come to revise,

Will have their monuments-


                                      Better ones

Than Saddam’s victory arch with the outsize

Scimitars clutched in muscly arms.


I feel so helpless.


                             I’ll spend this war

Constructing a habitat for nymphs.

The nymphs are tiny and made of white metal

And wear no clothes. They have weapons though,

Scimitars and spears and bows

To defend their trees which I’ll make from twigs

And their lake which I’ll make from kitchen foil.


Bale-fires green in the Baghdad night.

Instant Ozymandias.

The monuments, the palaces

Cleared from the skyline.

Green, green fire.


The war correspondent speaks to camera

Wearing her gas-mask. Lovely big breasts,

The face half-way between ape and machine.



Our friends went onto the Derbyshire moors

At the solstice. There’s a little stone circle

Few people know.


                                      The sky was cloudless.

Phones switched off. The war switched off


And placed  a bunch of daffodils.

Beside the hen’s egg- set upright

In a tussock- left by some early riser.



Every man is this much of an artist

He wants to make a world.


                                      The dictator

Has put his face in every room,

In every building

In every street.


The country is as full of him

As the Iliad is full of genius.



A parachute came down in the Tigris

They say the pilot hid in the reeds.


They set the reeds on fire.

They rake them with machine gun bullets.

Someone has found some sort of a bag

And does a dance- the young man dance,-

Bouncey-bounce-bounce- that looks the same

Whether the tune is Thank you, Jesus,

Spurs for the Cup or

We love you, Saddam.



Gifts of silks and mirrors and combs

Are carried in on a bronze shield

To the girls in their burkhas.


A trumpet blows

And a tall girl tips the gear from the shield

And hefts it, stoops and grasps the spear

As it rolls from an unwound bale. Achilles.


Young men cannot dodge their fate.


Odysseus walks him down to a ship

With huge, wide-open eyes at its  prow.



Baghdad is wrapped in a burning cloud-

Nothing to do with the bombing. No

Only a sandstorm. Only the sand.


And out in the desert the same conditions

Slow down the armies. And out of this horrible

Stony soup come the hit and run fellas

With rifles, putting holes in the soft-sided

Wagons that carry the chow and the water.

None of us- no, not even us peaceniks-

Before things started gave weight enough

To this simple, basic, historical truth:

No-one loves an invader.



How when Napoleon conquered Spain

And freed the people from Hapsburg tyranny,

Spanish patriots went to the wall

Crying, “long live chains,”


                             The night vision camera

Gives us a landscape that’s  emerald green,

And the desert gives us a city that’s red.

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