Every morning I wake up heavier,

my throat filled with dirt. What I can’t hack up

wash down with coffee and cough syrup.

I try to rinse the smell of wet cigarettes

from my body as I pick out

the stones and animals that get caught inside

my chest. When I leave, the world is the same:

The Others walk by, skirts lighting the way,

barely pausing to look beyond the inside

of their eyes. I recognize some, like Grease and Ash,

who ignore me, as I ignore them.

It’s easier to look away than stare

at faces worn like mine. Then I work,

replace the ground dried by the sun with large

pieces of my cheek and the new jobs always

with my back. I yell, as my wounds grow new,

to no-one, constantly. It goes slowly.

Most nights, I drink and bury my head long

enough to want to go home. Every day

I’m less surprised by this life

and consider, for a moment, the tub.

How long would it take to dig through

my stomach, drag as much intestine

as my hands can hold and cram them down my throat

until I found purpose?

Michael VanCalbergh is an instructor at Rutgers-Newark and in the REaCH program. When not teaching he spends most of his time convincing his daughter that Iron Man also eats his vegetables. His work has appeared in various journals including Per Contra, Naugatuck River Review, and The Collagist.

1 Comment

  1. I found your work refreshing. Strong imagery brings this piece to life. Excellent!

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