Man on a Leash

“He remembered, suddenly, his days in boot camp in the South and felt again the shoe of a white officer against his mouth. He was in his white uniform, on the ground, against the red, dusty clay. Some of his coloured buddies were holding him, were shouting in his ear, helping him to rise. The white officer, with a curse, had vanished, had gone forever beyond the reach of vengeance. His face full of clay and tears and blood; he spat red blood into the red dust.”

James Baldwin, Another Country, (Penguin Books, 1962, reprint ed., 1990), pp. 22.

She talks with a man
From the Middle East
Who’d migrated here
About the front page of
The Daily Telegraph–
Murdoch had his paper covered
With the image of the soldier–Private Lynndie England
pulling an unclothed Iraqi man
on a leash
tied to his neck–
Him dragged.
She says those images are hard to leave the mind–
She wants to forget them
Wipe them clean–they haunt.
He says Iraqis had it good for so long under Saddam.
Before sanctions.
If you ignore the U.S. backed brutalities and torture.
Free education. Excellent healthcare.
To live in the West, he says,
Paying private healthcare and struggling to pay bills
And driving a taxi
6 days a week
is like being dragged around on a leash.
It wasn’t what she was expecting to hear.
And she didn’t know he felt that way about his own life.
Leaving at 5 am,
returning at 5 pm.
Making enough to live on,
to cover mortgage, food and bills,
and it’s all spent at the end of the week.
The treat for his children being
a swimming lesson
and some pocket money.
(Islamic texts advise swimming, archery and horse riding lessons).
It didn’t make her forget the images,
But it added another one.

VANESSA JONES lives in Australia and can be contacted on