(after R. Carver)
When Ron came to pay me back
the two hundred he owed me,
he sat down at the kitchen table
accepting a cup of coffee
and started talking about old times.
His older brother Robert had
been killed in Vietnam
and he had never quite got over
his continued absence or his parents
refusing to talk about him.
All his friends knew this so we just
let him talk it out how he got Rob’s
hand-me-downs and baseball glove
and how he wished it had been him
instead of his brother who stepped
on that mine thousands of miles away
as he suddenly stopped talking
and stared out the window
as if he could see it all now
and suddenly started crying
(not unexpected) and how I
not knowing what to do
poured him a shot of whiskey
instead of the hug he needed
but couldn’t bring myself to give.
William Cullen Jr. is a veteran and works at a social services non-profit in Brooklyn, NY. His poetry has appeared in I-70 Review, Poetry South, Slipstream, and Turtle Island Quarterly.
© 2021, William Cullen Jr.