for my son 

Blinking dots in a bruised landscape,
bodies shattered
in sudden explosion,

the small keypad that dips and drums
beneath your fingers
leading your alter ego

through a manufactured war—guns
and dragons,
combat women, beautiful swords.

Your father mocks this mission
of arched back
and concentrating eyes because

at your age, he says,
he was outside in the barn
tending horses,

late into the night oiling the saddles,
filling buckets with grain, digging
rocks out of his painted gelding’s

shoes. Constructive in his meditative
a man alone.

The gelding still holds all of your father’s
secrets in one-sided
private exchange—

so different from the conversation you make
with your friend
over the mic attached

to your headphones. Together
you slay at least one hundred
giants, build tanks, blow up limbs,

burn down cities, turn off the game
and strategize the next.
Hours wasted in laughter, dirty jokes, and

surprise—what you can do to entertain
a friend who is autistic
and often isolated

in a house down the street from your own
where he sits on his bed with
headphones on, a mic, a small keypad,

and whelps loud after beating his enemy, you
shaking your head and smiling
happy to be the loser again.

Photo by Fausto Sandoval on Unsplash.

Kimberly Ann Priest

Kimberly Ann Priest is the author ofSlaughter the One Bird, a finalist for the American Best Book Award,as well as chapbooks The Optimist Shelters in Place, Parrot Flower, and Still Life. Winner of the New American Press 2019 Heartland Poetry Prize, her work has appeared in North Dakota Quarterly, Salamander, Slipstream, The Berkeley Poetry Review, EcoTheo, Borderlandsand other journals.She is an associate poetry editor for the Nimrod International Journal of Prose and Poetry and an assistant professor at Michigan State University.