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American Life in Poetry

Sun., May 11, 2014, midnight

Parents and children. Sometimes it seems that’s all there is to life. In this poem Donna Spector, from New York state, gives us a ride that many of us may have taken, hanging on for dear life.

On the Way to the Airport

You’re speeding me down the Ventura freeway

in your battered Scout, patched since your angry

crash into the drunken pole that swerved into your road.

We’ve got no seat belts, no top, bald tires,

so I clutch any metal that seems as though it might

be firm, belie its rusted rattling. Under my

August burn I’m fainting white, but I’m trying

to give you what you want: an easy mother.

For the last two days you’ve been plugged

into your guitar, earphones on, door closed. I spoiled

our holiday with warnings about your accidental

life, said this time I wouldn’t rescue you, knowing

you’d hate me, knowing I’d make myself sick. We’re

speaking now, the airport is so near, New York closer

than my birthday tomorrow, close as bearded death

whose Porsche just cut us off in the fast lane.

When you were three, you asked if God lived

under the street. I said I didn’t know, although

a world opened under my feet walking with you

over strange angels, busy arranging our fate. Soon,

if we make it, I’ll be in the air, where people say God lives,

the line between you and me stretched thinner,

thinner but tight enough still to bind us,

choke us both with love. Your Scout, putty-colored

as L.A. mornings, protests loudly but hangs on.

Poem copyright 2013 by Donna Spector from Rattle, Vol. 19, no. 3, and reprinted by permission of the author and publisher. American Life in Poetry is supported by The Poetry Foundation and the English department at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. We do not accept unsolicited manuscripts.

 

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