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On another occasion, we got sent out

to tackle looters raiding a bank.

And one of them legs it up the road,

probably armed, possibly not.

Well myself and somebody else and somebody else

are all of the same mind,

so all three of us open fire.

Three of a cand all letting fly, and I swear

I see every round as it rips through his life –

I see broad daylight on the other side.

So we’ve hit this looter a dozen times

and he’s there on the ground, sort of inside out,

pain itself, the image of agony.

One of my mates goes by

and tosses his guts back into his body.

Then he’s carted off in the back of a lorry.

End of story, except not really.

His blood-shadow stays on the street, and out on patrol

I walk right over it week after week.

Then I’m home on leave. But I blink

and he bursts again through the doors of the bank.

Sleep, and he’s probably armed, and possibly not.

Dream, and he’s torn apart by a dozen rounds.

And the drink and the drugs won’t flush him out –

he’s here in my head when I close my eyes,

dug in behind enemy lines,

not left for dead in some distant, sun-stunned, sand-smothered land

or six-feet-under in desert sand,

but near to the knuckle, here and now,

his bloody life in my bloody hands.

Remains by Simon Armitage, reprinted by permission of Pomona Books.

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