My boys are stuffing their faces
with sprinkled doughnuts,
breakfast they accidentally
found on the kitchen bench.
I told them ‘only one’.
Put on Arabic Sesame Street
And you ask me to, um,
‘Explain war to a child’?

We’re playing puppet show.
Pink towel for stage curtains.
Khalto the Emu,
pays her salams
Ahmed and Ali rabbits.
Bounce through –
‘we’re best fwends’.
There’s no Good vs. Evil
in their ontology
No Aesop’s adversarial
human nature construct
in hyper masculinity.
No imagery or metaphor
for villains to help explain
War.

Though maybe
I’m mistaken.
They did just pull
the cat’s tail.
Kicked down
The puppet stand.
Still fought over
the last doughnuts.
Maybe war
will be familiar,
Maybe war
will be too familiar
to explain.
Or, maybe, someone
will explain it to them
before we do.

Maybe they’ll grow
to be withdrawn,
apathetic gamers
from a world
which sees them
Terrorist –
They’ll house their Arab-built
bodies on sofas and wheelie-chairs.
Maybe the anxiety
of war on their people
will swallow them
And render them helpless
Keyboard warriors
unable to see beyond
terror and destruction.

I don’t know with boys,
Arab/Muslim boys.
Maybe they’ll be poets, academics,
teachers like their father,
one solid Ummah.
White helmets…

Maybe they’ll remember
our quiet mornings –
Arabic Sesame Street’s
counter-orientalist
Stories.
Khalto the Emu’s
gentle teachings.
Find in them
strength of vision
to fight our anti-wars.

Cover image © Tasnim Sammak

Tasnim Sammak

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