by Michael Stang
Innocence lost against this child’s survival. The dumpsters are full of them up and down the alleys mixed together with the rest of useless fantasy. Garbage to the invading foe. It’s the same old song—12 -year- olds are prime time for death. Way past old enough to kill, their minds can still be manipulated for maximum shock—and dance: Toyota armies’ stage executions at heritage sites spilling blood, wasted like water, desecrating anointed stones that Elijah shared with Malachi and Jesus, the Buddha and Ali Baba.
Family is where his boots don’t budge for more than an hour, where he huddles with strangers through screaming overhead killers; concussion waves keep his eyes shut for fear of losing them.
Mav is 27 now. Fifteen years in relocation camps or up in the high desert with the fighters, he could be a thousand years old for the little advance. This war will never be measured in land. Mav reads little and does not think for himself, responding usually to what he is told.
Coming back from a mission, riding in the back along the eastern border, a sniper catches up with Mav between the shoulders through and through, shattering all hope for the future. Goes with all religions, the coming is a grave.
On his knees, in an attempt to keep his lungs clear, the driver pulls over to the side in a surprising show of compassion. They lay the boy out on the sand head high and wet his face. Mav resists opening his mouth, or couldn’t, when an older fighter bends down to speak to him. He tells him how proud he is of him, that he has been watching him fight for some time now, how not to worry he will die in the waiting arms of Allah, how heavenly treasures await in paradise.
Death’s blanket is 115 degrees. The soldiers huddle shade around Mav’s head. He has some time for himself: Cold mountain streams laden with trout flash like an old movie. He hears his Father’s voice, Desha, his sister, her hair … his Mother.