haibun
A Quarterly Journal of Contemporary English Language Haibun
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June 2005, vol 1 no 1

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David Cobb, UK

Business in Eden

An officer wearing camouflage, standing on a tank, addresses a thousand men in his command. We go to liberate, not to conquer. We will not fly our flags in their country. Thoughts of one soldier in the front rank drift. Regimental banners in the church back home. The vicar's starched surplice. Wife and mother in the congregation. Tales read at bedtimes. Hot chocolate.

the lights are going out
on the Arabian Nights,
Scheherazade

He sweats and wipes the desert from his eyes. Notices a pile of body bags. I know men who have taken life needlessly in conflicts. They live with the mark of Cain upon them. Runs a finger along the stripe he has just sewn on his sleeve. Remembers how his father, also a corporal, brought home a souvenir, a bayonet. Used it in the garden to dig up weeds.

the field just planted
labelling it
with a template of skulls

When the man you killed woke up this morning, he did not plan to die this day. Bury him properly and mark his grave. Thinks to check his entrenching tool. Wonders if the wife will remember to cover up the plants if there's a frost. Bin bags over the wisteria would be good. Reckons she's got plenty of time because he's three hours ahead. The land you are entering is the site of the Garden of Eden.

a little earth
left over from the sandbags
for a flowerpot

Let us leave it a better place for our having been there. Our business now is north. North. Eden is north, so is Bradford. The wife booked in at the new hospital and due any time now. Will it be a boy? From the munitions dump they are delivering shells to the forward guns.


(Note: Italicised are lines from Colonel Tim Collins's speech to British troops before entering Iraq, March 2002.

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