When I was just past thirty, I wrote a poem about my father. It took an Honorable Mention in a contest sponsored by The MacGuffin literary journal and judged by Diane Wakoski. I gave him a copy of the journal after it was published, and he acted like he always did when he didn’t know if he was being subtly criticized or if he should be flattered. I told him to be flattered.
“Little old ladies” (his term) always loved my father. And I think that’s how he found some of his treasures. Maybe that is where my trunk came from, now that I think of it!
A Scout Truck Grows Older
The only time my father did not bury
himself with obsolete and imperfect things–
rice-paper widows with old iceboxes and documents
to give away to someone who cherished them
for their age–was when he loved a ‘sixty-four
gray-green Scout, still toddler-new and shiny.
I took this as an omen of better times;
not knowing he wanted to see the decay of beauty.
My father and I travelled long and alone
in that truck that was not really a truck–
no caked mud flaps, corroded door frames,
three-year-old garbage under cab seats.
In January he cranked its heavy plow,
flexing the biceps of the Scout’s compact body.
It whined and startled from the weight
of Kalamazoo’s heavy winter, my father
pushing it on and on way into dark.
That summer he steered us bouncing across
the spongy edge of Long Lake, passing closest
when breath-near the bottomless drop-off.
I imagined the truck tipping and me
with no orange life jacket to endure
the cold whirlpool, those obsidian depths.
But we spun on, tilting, along that damp sand,
crushing the last fishtail-smelly driftwood
and snail shells that lake would ever spew out.
The Scout began aging–coughing and slowing.
When it held enough soiled shirts and rusty tools–
things not new, too common to call antiques–
I was too grownup to dress in boy clothes
and pretend to be my father’s son, loving
the feel of destruction beneath our wheels.
The MacGuffin 5.3 (1988): 18
I couldn’t find an old photograph of the truck. I realized I don’t have many photos of those years.
I’m not sure if my dad’s truck was #1 or #3 in the ad. I remember running away and getting out to the garage and seeing the Scout sitting there. The world looked exhausting from the garage, so I hauled my little laundry bag of clothes into the truck and fell asleep.