Embracing the Suck: A Machine Gunner's Story


1.


I stroke the rounds like beautiful pelts

and wait for night.  The bullets— let each

find its mark—I name all the same:

Ali Baba, Ali Baba, Ali Baba,

moving my lips and caressing the chamber,

each bullet a rosary bead.


2.


The repetition is persistent,

the song stuck in my head,


You better back the fuck up

Before you get smacked the fuck up*


it calms me, replaces fear of death

the way Saddam, Saddam, Saddam


can sound like a lullaby.

When speaking aloud I say Ali Baba,


to myself I mouth mutha-fucka.


3.


Some days it's too much, the beauty

glinting off my ammo belts, the heat

visible in the twirl of distant dust.

It could all be a dream, picking its way

through the numb, so different from

the weight of my pack, the only certainty

death.  I want to walk with arms spread

past the barrier and search for Little Father,

acoustic guitar playing in my head.

Perhaps they'll kill me quick and soft.


* from Tupac's "Hit'em Up"

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