Tourist Photograph from Iraq

This is how I wanted to see my self…
This is what I thought we would do in Iraq
That’s what I always thought we were about…
Barefoot, little kids… I remember that one
there… he couldn’t have been five years old
Just a damn little kid, you know?
Little, black, cracked, bare… Dust covered
feet.
Tiny little kid… Tough as hell. His brother
too.
The sand must’ve been 150 degrees, fuckin’
hotter than that! Everything was so damn
hot; the heat
Would come up through my boots like standing on a stove.
The kid had baby toes that were like coarse
callused black elephant leather. That kid
had the craziest rough ass skin
I gave the kid an M.R.E. and some other
food. A bunch of crap I was sick of eating…
Kids would stand on the roads every damn day asking for that crap.
There was nothing else… bleak dead dust
days, powdered sand-lands of nothing for
miles and miles.
There was nothing but an unattainable horizon
and a damn long ass road.
But the fucking little ass kids would come
out of nowhere…
Nothing around! Not a damn thing! But these
damn kids would just appear.
I thought we were going over to help these
damn kids that would come out of nothing and go back into it. Feed the hungry, help the
oppressed, give relief from day in day out
pain.
That is what I wanted to think I was there
for.
Barefoot, all day long
All they wanted was food from us…
Like damn kids on the 4th of July… we were a spectacle, a parade of crazy floats passing
out food.
But then we hit one you know… That was it!
It all changed
We were told not to stop… Don’t stop not in
the towns. Keep the truck moving and don’t
stop. Forget the kids!
Now, now I can’t forget the kids. Damn kid.
I’m not even there. Hundred thousand miles
away and its still in my fucking head.
Ah fuck ‘em they were just a part of the damn landscape anyway.

Aaron Hughes is an artist, Iraq War veteran, and member of Iraq Veterans Against the War. His artwork can be seen at http://www.aarhughes.org/