I’m behind a bar of regulars
as my son tells me he’s leaving.
I hand him a beer because
I don’t know how to be frightened.
I hear “proud” as the other men cheer.
I’m crying over a strange soldier’s body.
I hold his wallet. His children
are beautiful. I promise my son
a tire shop. I sell it instead.
I can’t stop his retreat.
I’m the son, hoping. There’s a hospital
room behind slot machines where my father dies.
I tell my sons I want to give them more.
They drown in a river of quarters.
I try to save every one.
I wake to my daughter’s scream like broken glass.
I drag the dream across the apartment
to warm her bottle. I hold her close, keep her
awake with the story of the dream.
Michael VanCalbergh was a part-time Lecturer at Rutgers University-Newark before moving to Normal, Illinois where he cobbles together a living doing whatever he can. When not pretending to be caught in his daughter’s Pokeball, he co-hosts the comedy etymology podcast Words For Dinner. His work has appeared in, or is forthcoming from, Tinderbox, Figure 1, Apex Magazine, The Collagist, and elsewhere. (http://wordsfordinner.podbean.com/)
Artwork: Rob Woodcox