DRIVING AT TWILIGHT
Let it be late August, Dylan’s “Not Dark Yet”
on the radio, those final moments before
I turn the headlights on. Let me hear Dylan’s raspy vocals
with only a hint of static. It takes a moment
to realize this is my father’s car, the leather seats
of his ’78 Mercury, a blue air freshener dangling
from the rearview mirror. And maybe I’m a little unsettled
because even now, mind hazy, I know my father’s car
is decades gone.
I coast along the winding streets
of Massachusetts past old colonials soft
with living room light, streets endlessly empty,
not thinking of my mother’s final days–the hospital bed
in the middle of our living room, her erratic inhalations
as my mother’s favorite big band music
played on a silver radio.
There’s only a rising sense
of the ocean, the scent of sea water. And maybe I realize
my father’s actually beside me, that he’s been here for miles
wearing a pristine white t-shirt. The static
makes it difficult to hear Dylan
so I turn the radio louder, tap my finger
on the steering wheel. In my father’s car
with its long front-end and polished hubcaps
I’m not concerned about the sky’s deepening purple,
that the months have faded
from August to November–
the beachfront empty, arcade closed.
And now it becomes clear
it’s really my father who’s driving. I now understand
that it’s me in the passenger’s seat and my mother’s
at home. Her body moves like it did at 25, her hair again
dark brown. We do not speak
because my father’s got his own favorites playin–Bobby Darin,
Fats Domino. So what if we can barely hear?
So what if the hovering darkness
seems impatient? We’re all so young, my father and me,
and my mother too now sitting behind us, her hand reaching
to touch my father’s shoulder. We drive
as the ocean moves closer but do not worry
because we have these final threads of purple
and are certain–even as the static grows–
there’s something here that will save us.
Steve Coughlin has published poems in various literary journals and magazines, including the Gettysburg Review, New Ohio Review, Michigan Quarterly Review, Gulf Coast, Seneca Review, Slate, and Pleiades. His first book of poetry, Another City, was published in 2014 by FutureCycle Press. Coughlin is an Assistant Professor of English at Chadron State College.