Rambo walks me through the path, his ear
tilted toward the sky. He listens
for bullets, cigarette rolled under tongue,
sweat stinging his eyes. He rips apart
the jungle, swatting flies and chopping
tree trunks. The jungle cracks, he says aloud –
“We have to go home now,
mama will worry.”
Rami flies through the path, the air
is filled with dust. Shib shib
grating against gravel, he runs
home. Umm Rami will be cooking
makluba or warak ‘einab. And Rami,
her eldest at seven, will be sent out
with shekels to buy khubz. “Ya walad!”
she yells, “put that dirty plastic thing down!”
Still, Rami and I will chase down the sun,
shekels sweating in his palm as we
make our way to the store.
‘Ammo Yazan will be there, smelling
of salt and cigar smoke. He will smile
when Rami pretends to gun him down –
“Little Rambo, we should tell Arafat
about you. Maybe then we’d win the war.”
But no one will tell Arafat and we won’t
win the wars. Rami will buy the khubz
every week. And every week he will take
me slung across his chest like a badge.
Umm Rami will still be cooking
mlukhiyya or beitinjan, even as planes
crowd the sky overhead. Even as soldiers
pockmark the street with spit.
After years, Rami will grow and
leave me for a new gun of steel. They will
not call him Rambo, and he will not wear
shib shib while he targets soldiers’ backs.
The new gun will be slung across his chest
a badge, a family crest – a marker that reads,
By Fatima Sausan Masoud
A Palestinian-American born in the southwest, Fatima Sausan Masoud (she/her) holds an MFA in Creative Writing from the University of Texas at El Paso. She lives in El Paso and teaches First Year Composition and Elementary Arabic at the same university. She finds time to write in the in-between spaces when her kids are asleep. Find her on Instagram (@applewhiskey).