Friday Poem

Driving Lesson

I learned to drive on this road flattened between
cornfield and pasture. my stick legs folded onto daddy's lap
the sun white off the Plymouth hood, ribboned
down a windshield crack. careful. so careful, I
curved the wheel between a shallow grade to the corn
and a runoff ditch where tadpoles swam together
like bee swarms then exploded apart, comma bodies
shooting from the huddle at a stone drop in the water

daddy whistled The Year that Clayton Delaney Died
to the back of my neck while I crisscrossed the car over dust ruts.
sixteen blocks in the city. out here it was
twenty rows of irrigation pipe, two mailboxes, Fred's pig shed.
I never saw Fred's pigs but my cousin Janell did.

I swayed through every slouch in the road, passed the truck cab
splotched rust and green hunkering in a blackberry tangle.
every year those berries plumped out fat and sweet,
then wrinkled to dry nubs while we watched from the fence line
where a bull waited to stick little girls on his yellow horns.

we snuck a bath towel out once, Clorox white with fat red roses
spilled across it. we shook it at him but he stood bull still
watching us run to the fence, shake the towel, then scramble away.
he stood bull still while those red red bullfighter roses flashed at him
so we proclaimed him colorblind.

I watched from the toolshed while he stood still again when they
shot him then rolled his stomach, red and white like the towel,
onto the pasture. I wasn't afraid of him humped over on the grass.
that sticky mat of blood made me want to charge at them, gore them
through the fence with my imaginary horns

on the day they butchered, I touched him for the first time. his
horns as thick as my forearm, round on the end
not ice pick sharp. all summer we ate beef for supper. beef
and unguarded blackberries that stained our faces purple.

I learned to steer on this road.

from: Agnieszka’s Dowry