Copyright is held by the author.
After he recited the Pledge of Allegiance,
with his second-grade class, after sharing all
his green grapes with Emily, Abdullah told
Miss Graciella, I want to die for Allah.
I want to be in paradise!
He placed a plastic bag over his
beautiful face and held it and held it.
Now he is in my office. He sits across
from me his legs too short to touch
the ground. They swing back and forth
as if to a tune I cannot hear.
I hold his hand feel his seven-year
old pulse. Outside the wind slits the sides
of the school’s brick facing, its pitched cry
wailing through the East River’s shoreline.
White papers smother my desk top.
I search for the boy’s home number. My job
mandates I make phone calls-first to his mother,
then to the ambulance, to the police department,
and to the District Superintendent.
Silence enters the room sits on the wooden chair
next to us. I don’t know what to say to him
after all his death prayers,
but I am, the Principal, now looking to Abdullah
for my next steps. On the green wall behind my desk,
a fly rubs its fingers together nervously.
It circles the top of my head. I wave it
away with one hand making it dip and spin.
A smile breaks open his face.
Do you know what it means to die?
To see Allah, he says in a clipped accent.
Abdullah, there will be no mornings,
if you die, no moon to watch you
sleep, no mommy to hold you.
This time I hold my breath; hold it,
hold it. The ambulance takes him from me
flashing its gold and red lights
I wait for the howling like a scream
as the wind lifts above the street
disappearing into the cool morning.
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