In West Virginia he is strapping on a vest.
The back is shiny.
The front is a color he’d call gay
(because everything not preferable at 16 is
automatically christened homosexual).
But it matches his date’s dress,
and because her va-va-voom
top of the pyramid pom-pom
causes him to cheer, profess his love
every time she gets undressed,
he does what he’s told,
a self-imposed servant to burgeoning breasts.
In the West Bank they are strapping a vest to him.
The back digs into his soul.
The front is what boys his age put up
when they have been hurt,
or are about to die.
They kiss his cheek goodbye, leave him alone:
to confirm each explosive in place
that rest between the ridges in his ribcage.
To mutter last words because his upper lip
stutters at the sudden stare
of a sacred pilgrimage.
To pull the chord,
a self-imposed enemy.
He does what he’s told Jihad rebel with a cause,
and a confiscated identity.
Someday you’ll rip open the pouch;
pour the seeds into your palm
and spread them lovingly into the Earth
as if sprinkling the best parts of you
into the entrails of your unborn children.
Someday you’ll be a corsage
delicately wrapped around the limp wrist
of a debutante dolled in daffodil
for a super sweet sixteen,
or the boutonniere fastened in a sharp lapel
at a homecoming dance in a gym swimming
in crepe paper.
Or someday you’ll be lamenting life,
just another flower
flung at dirtside memorial
where a father’s head just blew off.
(Originally published here)