Dad sold his blood
on Saturday afternoons
a couple times a month.
Mom off waitressing,
or maybe the warehouse job,
or any other place the temp agency
would send her,
Dad’d load us into the
rusted quarter panel conversion van,
soup can dangling from baling wire
(I think it was beef noodle)
to catch the constant oil leak,
that van where the stray cat died
on the block one horrid January morning,
that van he once let me drive home
from Cub Scouts, only to have
a crow go headfirst into the grille.
Dad’d back out into the dirt and gravel of
all beer cans and spent needles,
and we’d roll down 41,
hoping for potholes, that when hit at top speed,
would give you that roller coaster stomach,
if only for a second.
There was this lot at the side of the highway,
lettering on the sign out front
always made me think of jars of Miracle Whip,
they sold “luxury housing solutions for
our new mobile world,”
which meant singlewides,
and fifth-hand RV’s.
Right next door, you’d find the tiny white house,
rail out front in case you felt faint while leaving.
They’d put Dad in a recliner,
hook him up to red-stained plastic tubes,
let us sit in the corner,
had the biggest TV I’d ever seen,
must’ve been twenty-eight inches, and color,
gave us orange juice and
oatmeal raisin cookies,
tuned the box to Masters of the Universe
while they slowly sucked Dad’s blood.
One time Mom and Dad took us to the circus,
I was afraid of the clowns,
but I got a huge bag of
the world’s butteriest popcorn,
and a plastic cap gun,
and I still remember the red stripes,
the salt on my winter-chapped lips.
Mom and Dad,
they gave us those first memories,
and they paid for them in blood.
~ James Benger
James Benger is the author of two fiction ebooks, three chapbooks, one full-length poetry book, and is a coauthor of three split books of poetry. He is on the Board of Directors for The Writers Place and the Riverfront Readings Committee, and is the founder of the 365 Poems In 365 Days online workshop. He is Editor in Chief of the subsequent anthology series. He lives in Kansas City with his wife and two sons.
November Editor, Ronda Miller, is the State President of Kansas Authors Club. Miller has four books of poetry: Going Home: Poems from My Life, MoonStain, WaterSigns and Winds of Time. Her upcoming children’s book, I Love the Child, will be published 12/13/2019. The book’s illustrator is Katie Wiggins, a found cousin.