Call of Duty


No, Mr. Parent, I have barely met
my son may not play Call of Duty,
the blood-spattering-on-the-imaginary-glass-
storefront-with -the-sign-"Nude Live Girls"
(they dare to call it a) game
when he comes to the birthday party
of your ten-year-old next Saturday.

I have worked too hard making him
go on hikes and read books to have
one marathon session
fueled by sugar and caffeine,
be a virus, infecting him with the yearning
to perfect the craft of carnage,
while chatting online with people,
some of whom I wouldn’t invite to dinner.

Ya, ya, ya
I understand we enjoyed
shooting stuff when we were young,
but I don’t remember graphics like Gettysburg.
In our times, there was this little round circle
that gobbled up other circles,
unlike a room of boys today,
glazed and lazed,
stinky stress armpit odor rising like tear gas
in their darkened bedrooms.

We also ran around outside until it got dark,
sometimes yes, playing cops and robbers
but all the while jumping over tree roots
and falling on the earth.
Our imaginary I’m dying cortisol spikes
were dissipated through lung tissue and pumping muscles,
we noticed leaf change and felt weather.

I’d love nothing else than to plug my boy in all day,
escape behind my novel and online Scrabble,
and I do sometimes, wire him up for a few hours-
but I also I serve a tonic,
no one lets their kids feel it anymore,

He is my fifth, youngest son.
His brother at sixteen spent some time thrilled to kill,
but he was first respectful, he could be restful.
He has a TV in his room,
but he got it for his seventeenth birthday.

Mr. Parent with Mrs. Parent
who nodded when I spoke, as if she too wished
her home didn’t sound like a firing range,
I actually wish you’d told me straight in your yard
that it would be an issue,
wish I’d known that your son would call my boy a baby
and tell him he wouldn’t get an invite next year.
I wouldn’t have dropped him off.

I wish you knew that in the days that followed,
a few boys stepped forward
on the schoolyard, I call them the "Me Neithers”:
my mom doesn’t let me play violent video games either,
I can’t do screen time on a school night either,
I can’t see PG-13 movies yet either
I don’t have an iphone, ipad, Kindle, DS either.

A little band of them, who still get excited
when I bring out water balloons,
who will play Black Jack and Clue
and ride their bikes to the corner store,
who don’t ask about video games
like they are heroin and they have already
tied the tourniquet.

I invite you to join me.
For a little bit longer,
while he grows synapses and sinew,
give your boy a childhood.
I consider it our call, our duty.