Albert Abonado

In a Field Called Vietnam

"You look like someone I shot once"
What bothers me was his specificity:

In a field he called Vietnam where
the one I'm supposed to be is

more of a memory of me who fidgets
with a gun twenty yards away.

He stopped thinking about me until
I was standing among buckets of

produce where he says "I shot you
once, and how are you planning

on living with that?" In his defense,
I was very tan that summer

so I didn't bother to correct him
with my Filipino-ness. I said

you remind me of my mother
whose green card was stolen

last month. Sometimes, I have
two mothers. I'm not sure which one

was the one I once saw holding
the hole in the neck of a man

dying in a field. I saw the hole
grow teeth and now the man travels

around the country talking
out the back of his head with two

voices: the bored voice
and the surviving voice,

and when he asks for water
his mother tilts his head back

to let the air out of his brain.


At the end of the day, the photographer firmly shakes his camera so souls fall from the aperture like dandruff, easier now since he converted to digital, which the souls avoid since they get lost in all the numbers and circuitry. In the old days of his dark room, souls would bind themselves to the winding springs and film. It made prints a hazard, dealing with bloated heads inserted into frames where they didn't belong, a fact that often went unappreciated by customers like the one who complained about the soul replacing every face in a wedding photo with its own. It wasn't a relative, just a stranger who happened to enjoy the visuals of cake. The photographer apologized and didn't want to admit he thought this was just a particularly unattractive family with unfortunate genes, nor did he feel compelled to school customers in the facts of the business: sometimes a soul hears something click followed by a flicker of light and the small bell of its instinct goes off. It can't help but think this must be a preview of death, so it heads off in that direction, ending up in an unfamiliar landscape with the surprised look of someone that never expected to get this far into the light.

Albert Abonado lives in Rochester, NY, and received his MFA from the Bennington Writing Seminars. His work has appeared or is forthcoming in Rattle, The Hazmat Review, Anti-, Abjective, and upstreet.

"When I was younger I used to play the board game Life on my front porch with my neighbors. I lost many games of Life there. I hope that wasn't some cosmic sign."


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