She sat beside me on the bus
soldier girl from basic training
rifle clasped between her knees
the road was long to Tel Aviv
a popular tune wailed from
loudspeakers set into the stained ceiling
a weak fan fought against the desert heat.
We did not exchange a word
she less than half my age plugged into
her own earphone wire snaking down
inside her uniform. Somewhere before
Beer Sheva she fell asleep and as the bus
turned at a junction her head fell on
my shoulder, a lock of corn-colored hair
tickled my neck.
I could have woken her pushed her away
but feeling fatherly left her there until
the journey’s end. She jerked awake lifted
her head picked up her gun and khaki duffel bag
stood up straightened her shirt and still without
a word joined other soldiers leaving the bus.
My shoulder ached but somehow felt so proud
that she had chosen it.
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© Johnmichael Simon