Cars My Father Has Bought, Working Back to the Dawn of Time

A PT Cruiser, sloped forward like
a forehead, with no power steering.
Sunroof leaks. A Dodge minivan
his German shepherds can climb into.
We drive it into town the afternoon
before Easter, silent. Behind us
both dogs smack their lips in the heat.
He fiddles with the checkbook half
risen from his shirt pocket, and then
the radio. He says he won’t take long.

A Dodge pickup off a lot in Texas.
Another Dodge, its bumper cracked
into a stuttering apology
in a traffic accident, was the last
car his mother rode in. A wine-red
pickup before that recalled three times
in the year he owned it. Mirrors,
seat belts, brakes. Traded for the van.

Sometime before that a Cadillac
more brand name than car. Threw oil.
A string of Lincolns in the Nineties.
He drove a hundred miles to work each day.
Crown Victoria, a Caprice
my grandmother once drove off a hill,
through a pasture, and home again.
I once coaxed a girl into its backseat.

An Oldsmobile with worthless seats,
given to my mother. A Chevy
dually that never stopped pushing
air through its vents. He covered the dash
in masking tape, ruined the finish.

And before that a yellow F-150
I know only from photographs:
parked in a field behind him, a newborn
calf at his feet. My mother
in bridal white, on his arm, smiling.
A tailgate picnic, the three of us
bundled for winter in a driveway
long since behind us. He drove me
into life, delivered me quietly
to childhood. He looks from the window.
Out there somewhere the asphalt ends.
We don’t acknowledge it.

Marvin Shackelford is author of the collections Endless Building (poems) and Tall Tales from the Ladies' Auxiliary (stories, forthcoming). His work recently has appeared in Kenyon Review, Wigleaf, Split Lip, Juked and elsewhere. He resides in Southern Middle Tennessee, earning a living in agriculture.