The Ride to School

The kapici sags in his plastic chair,

“guarding” the lives–stacked high in the shabby building–with boredom

and indifference

He is not a bad man, just old and beyond a time when he might have been heroic

 

He flicks his cigarette onto the ground, then takes a drag,

his eyes squinting at me as I pass

and the smell tickles my nose and burns my eyes

 

Cold glass cools my palms as I press the see-through door

to go out to the sidewalk and then the street

My footsteps ricocheting on pavement

And I hold my breath as dad starts the car,

 

a roar of sound jerks my nerves like a prod

I saw him from above, looking down from my vantage of the living room window,

As he knelt to reflect the underneath of our very American van with a hand mirror

 

But we are alive

as we drive the new route to the school on base,

at the new time

we fight to live through this old fight

Chinning the air with our false courage

 

I swallow the fear that creeps up my throat like battery acid,

the road blurring beyond the blunt nose of the Chevy

until the guard shack comes into view

And I breathe relief,

Back sinking a fraction against my seat

 

Dad salutes the MP wearing navy blue at the gate

And I smile through the tinted window

Nothing was stolen today,

Save the childish sense of security that can’t be retrieved,

 

But that flew away the day the war began

A million years ago

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