Iron Focus 224. Photo by Brendan Johnson.

Share This

Motel Six After the War Game

The field glows off and on
like fluorescent screens of televisions
in far-away apartments

After the games I fold
into the smoky flowered coverlet
of the motel floating across
the long black river of the highway

Today Omar ran in the woods
alongside the training boys Yusuf
compared it to camping Ralia gossiped
about Laith Laith pretended
to die Ali cracked open
sardines to share in the grass
their spines melting immediately
to nothing   our mouths smeared
with salt   Omar pretended
to be a bad guy Nafeesa who they
all agreed at the Arby’s afterwards
has a very bad story fell inside
the game

Inside the flowered coverlet,
before the day blinks black,
to stop the motel bed from going
under to keep the world above
water I hold the dream    of you
in my center   until I sleep


Note: This poem is from Kill Class, a manuscript based on two years of ethnographic fieldwork conducted within combat simulations in mock Middle Eastern villages erected by the US military across the United States. In the war games, Middle Eastern nationals enact war on a loop: they pretend to mourn and bargain and protest and die in tiny theaters. Many of these charged performances of nation, adversary, and land are staged in the American South.