Doing My Best Father

You say you can’t travel
like you used to, but just yesterday
that was you behind the wheel
of the station wagon I’d managed
to pack without your or Mom’s help,
a pure pressed-against-the-glass splat
making its way west to north on 49,
the two of us in what’s left of the front
seat growing quieter still with every thin
town we drove through strung
from Helena to college in Jonesboro.
We never thought we needed an Atlas:
Walnut Corner, Poplar Grove,
Marvell, Brinkley…all along
fumbling for any reason to stop—
was it Wiener or Waldenburg
where we needed a shake?

It was only yesterday you circled campus
till we found Twin Towers, the men’s dorm,
pulled in and parked the burnt-orange Volare, and sat
sizing up this world of necessities
moving in: students lugged bulging cardboard
boxes snaggled in plastic hangers, the world’s
first disco ball floated by, teetering atop
a stack of towels erupting from a wicker hamper—

a strange mirrored-ball world as new to you as me.
You saw me take it in too, saw me
full-well struck, all wobbly, my right
knee doing the jimmy leg,
and said the one thing you knew
would get me out the door:
Son, just say the word
and we’ll turn this ole buggy around
right now and go straight home.

That’s me you see behind the wheel
now, doing my best father, quiet like you,
bound like Atlas to get up under it all
and shoulder the moment.

Once I’m gone, you’ll be left.
Sure as the world, you’ll choose
the quicker route home: Highway 1
through Harrisburg, Wynne,
Forrest City, Marianna, Walnut Corner…
across fields so low every road’s a levee.

Terry Minchow-Proffitt lives in St. Louis, MO. His poems have appeared in or are forthcoming in Arkansas Review, Big Muddy, Black Fox Literary Magazine, The Christian Century, Crack the Spine, Crux, decomP magazinE, Deep South Magazine, Desert Call, Freshwater Review, Hash The Mag, Moon City Review, Mud Season Review, OVS Magazine, Oxford American, The Penwood Review, Pisgah Review, Prick of the Spindle, The Tower Journal, Valparaiso Poetry Review, Wild Violet, and The Write Room. His chapbook, Seven Last Words, was recently published by Middle Island Press.

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