-after "Iraq's Grown-Up Children,"
Los Angeles Times, October 2008
Zaid quit grade four to work the slums
of Sadr City from dawn to dusk.
His father's old and bent, so he's the son
who rides their tractor collecting trash,
not working land they'd planned to till
before the war. From dawn to dusk,
his friend Majid, with the family mule,
sells rationed goods near Baghdad now,
not crops from land his family tilled
before the war. Majid can't read signs that show
the wanted men or call Iraqi souls to prayer.
He sells rationed flour near Baghdad now.
Another friend, Farid, repairs old mufflers.
He no longer hunts tin cans on risky roads.
Farid can't read the posters that call to prayer.
His agile hands are worn at ten years old.
He watches other children walking home
from school with books on dangerous roads.
In dreams of soldiers in their solemn uniforms,
he likes the way they tilt their guns the most.
He watches schoolchildren walking home
with plans and fairer destinies not lost.
Zaid quit grade four to work the slums.
Farid likes the soldiers' guns the most.
Fathers are as old and beaten as their sons.