Iraq Occupation Focus logo US troops face Iraqi demonstrators in Baghdad, July 2003
Iraq Occupation Focus : Campaigning to end the occupation of Iraq
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2004 competition: Highly commended (8 of 11)

Picture me, resplendent

Picture me, resplendent, in fullest display, cock o’ the north, cat got the cream, the butcher
with the last sausage; trews skin tight, red leg, white leg, my tunic blue with white stars and on my lapels,
here, and here, an elephant, a donkey. Please do not look at my rear. Not yet.

I am strong and I am fast. I am the boy who ran last year’s Blackberry Hill mile in four minutes, dead
and I am the one who boxed the village fair against all corners and won. I am proud. I am a winner.

When I am asked, I say I am a quiet lad. I pick no fights. I am happy here in my own place. I have everything
I need. On the hill behind the village is an old iron mine, and our blacksmith is a fine blacksmith who hones a sword
better than anyone hones a sword (we buy many swords) and we have fresh water for ten thousand years, and gold,
and women, and the fields you see from the two church spires (the tallest) are fine, yellow with pregnant corn.

I have travelled on behalf of my village. On trips I wear grey or light blue, or sometimes greens and browns like a sad tree
late in its cycle, and sometimes I am black, heavily black, and covered in steel, much larger, much larger.
But I am quick to remind the people, I will pick no fights, I am happy in my own place across the sea. I am resplendent
in my greys and blues. My creases are sharp, my eyes sharp.
I needs be aware at all times, for everywhere there are bad people, but I am calm and peaceful.

I will repeat, am I not resplendent? Beneath my large top hat I have a charming jester’s hat, complete
with tinkling bells. There is a part of me that tinkles (in our village we have festivities at Christmas).
Head on, am I not “the business”? Am I not “everything that’s good”?

But you must look me in the eye. Do not approach me from the rear. My back is scorched, wrinkled, burned, bloody.
I have a glittering, happy face (I pick no fights) but my back, beneath the uniform, it looks like death, it stinks
of death, and in the nooks and crannies of this corrupted flesh are dead screams and dying countries.

But head on, head on, am I not smart and shiny? This is why I stand, we stand, our backs to the wall,
and you will never, never, put your arms around us.

Alex Keegan