Iraq Occupation Focus logo US troops face Iraqi demonstrators in Baghdad, July 2003
Iraq Occupation Focus : Campaigning to end the occupation of Iraq
2004 competition
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Iraq Occupation Focus
PO Box 44680
N16 7XX

2004 competition: Highly commended (11 of 11)

Tuesday morning, platform two

Commuters shuffle, check their watches: the train is late again.
An autumn gust stings fingers, ears; discarded pages rustle.
Near the stairs to platform three, a bank clerk taps his shoe:
by now you’d have thought they’d be used to leaves on the line.

A woman agitatedly waves a hand,
though whoever she is speaking to on her mobile cannot see –
her ex-lover perhaps: she pleads, rages, goes quiet.
Passengers standing by her give sidelong glances.

The figures on the advertising hoardings
holiday cheaply on sun-drenched beaches, prepare
for every eventuality with insurance, shop online;
a handsome youth models a grey wool suit, moderately priced.

Opposite, by the exit, a man adjusts his tie.
He will never look that smart: his aunt used to tell him off
when he came home with mud on his clothes and even in his hair
after playing with other boys in their village near Baghdad.

But she cuddled him when he tore his knee trying to save a goal;
and at night she told him tales of adventure and magic,
conjuring up in his bedroom bold sailors, fearsome beasts
and genies that could grant your every wish.

A bad-tempered goat used to try to eat the plants
she carefully tended. He’d shout and drive it away.
Later, she loved to hear about how he was doing abroad.
He was told she wept for joy at the birth of his baby girl.

This year, his messages met with no response.
He called again and again, but the line was dead.
At last he heard from a neighbour: her house was bombed;
someone screamed, then silence; no-one inside survived.

Savitri Hensman