The Vanishing Bogeyman Or Now You See Him, Now You Don't

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Being a meditation on the comings and goings of late in Arabia and Mesopotamia, and the significance of the number six, with apologies to the late, great E. E. Cummings.

So long
Saddam Hussein Al-Takriti
That name has a good ring to it, doesn’t it?
But most of us know you
As just plain
Saddam

Your regime lasted 24 years
That’s quite a long time as dictators go
Two years longer than Mussolini
whom the people done strung up good and true,
Double Hitler
And about as long as
Your hero
Jo Stalin
But not as long as Franco
Or Salazar
Who fell off a deck chair and lost his mind
They still brought him papers to sign
Until they decided one day
To pull the plug
On his life support

The Americans came in from the sea
And with them — oh my gawd! — the post-imperial Brits
You would have thought in Iraq
That they’d have learned their lesson
In 1920
But no.

You came from Tikrit
Originally
But now
You’re gone.

Or maybe not.
For I hear
You wrote a letter
On your sixty-sixth birthday (just the other day)
Exhorting your people (sic)
To rise up,
Something you would never have allowed
During your time
In the gilded palaces

The pen is indeed mightier than the sword
Osama
(the bogeyman before you)
prefers Video
But then I suppose he’s a bit younger than you
A true child
Of his time
The television age

That is a difference
Between him and you
But there are
Uncanny similarities:
You’ve both vanished
Into thin air
After working so long
For the CIA
An occupational hazard,
It seems

Your top goons made a deal
And will, it is said, become citizens
Of the United States
Some say meanwhile
You’ve gone to Switzerland
To rearrange your face
Isn’t it ironic
That in your time
You had the faces of so many others rearranged
Now you pay
To have yours done

Switzerland’s the place
Where people like you
Keep their stash of loot
So no doubt
You can still afford it

Along with
The six point six million Americans
Who had cosmetic surgery
In 2002

Osama (if he’s still with us)
Has to spend his money
On kidney machines
But you,
You always looked pretty healthy
I have to say

One way or another
I don’t expect to see your face again
On TV
Or on posters
But maybe we’ll meet
Some Sunni day
In Oklahoma City
Or somewhere along
Route 66

For it’s odd how the Gulf Wars
Bring floods of Iraqis
To the United States
They call it
Open borders

There you could melt
Into the crowd
Just like John Doe
Number Two
Or you could become
A lone nut

Will it be you who takes out
George W. Bush,
Who has a knack for making history
And has produced a road map?
But they say he does not read
Either

Who knows?
Maybe even Time
Will never tell

So long, Saddam!

Richard Wall (send him mail) is a freelance translator, specializing in the social sciences, who lives in Estoril, Portugal.

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