nightmares of my father dying by Liam Strong

you tell me ice wants to be warm. a television screen, spastic with tiny spines,
warm from my fingerprint smeared across its face. i do this to you, but i am not pricked.

before work, a bundle of coriander stripped by the night’s wind on the porch-step.
once, when little, i constructed a fence from the broken backs of tiger lilies,

watched it brown and flake with paint. you plucked them so you could weed-whip the edge
of the garden. mom had iced lemonade waiting for you in the kitchen, pruned with

its own fruit of sweat. you hold a barbecue for reading in the Farmer’s Almanac that, finally
this year we’ll have a cool summer. the water table beneath the house nourishes

our Michigan basement with hickeys reminiscent of frost heave. when you’re outside
for too long, the glass fills with more water than content, like pouring a puddle into a stomach.

the ice knows where it goes when its thinning leads to disappearance. your body told me
i should be where i am not warm or cold but where no bird migrates.

i’ve never laughed in a dream, but i would have then. lukewarm means the earth will be
what the air demands. permafrost, sand, mush. lacking enthusiasm, a scallop of dry water.

something is wrong with every picture. in a dream, your body is neither missing or guaranteed.
in a dream, you hold me, in a dream, you won’t hold me.

in a glacier that has only ever known cold, it shelves away what it wants. a whale brushes
its back against the glacier’s heels, and enough happens.


Liam Strong is a Pushcart Prize nominated queer writer and studies English at University of Wisconsin-Superior. They are the former editor of NMC Magazine. You can find their works in Impossible Archetype, Dunes Review, Monday Night, Lunch Ticket, Chiron Review, The Maynard, Panoply, Prairie Margins, and The 3288 Review.

Vagabond City Literary Journal

Founded in 2013, we are a literary journal dedicated to publishing outsider literature. We publish art, poetry, and creative nonfiction from marginalized creators.