“First Date” by Michael Mark

Michael Mark


Two old, two very old cars
in the supermarket parking lot,
side by side in the handicap zone.
This is how I see them, my father
and his new girlfriend. The 1926 Ford,
him, dented fenders, hubcap missing,
bald tires overlapping the blue line,
bumper almost scraping the scratched-up
1930 Chevrolet, her. When he tells me
how they met I don’t hear—it’s already
in my head. Both cars backing out
of their spots at the same time. One
stopping short for the other to go. While
the other stops short for the other to go.
Then they both go, then stop, then go.
The screech of brakes. And he waits and
she waits until he hits his horn, Come on
already! And she gets nervous and moves
straight back into her spot to wait for him
to leave and he feels guilty and pulls up
beside her and waves for her to go first
but she just stares ahead, pretends
she doesn’t see, hands gripped at ten
and two. So he shuts his engine and gets out,
locks the door, tugs on the handle to test
that it’s locked so if he dies before he gets back
to it, no one should steal it, and walks around
and taps lightly, very lightly, on her window
though she pretends he’s not there, can’t hear
a thing, so he yells but tries not to make it an angry
yell, I’m sorry, my wife passed. I’m … He looks away.
This is where she rolls the window down close
to half, asks how many years they had together.
Sixty-five. Almost. Missed by seven days. This is where
she turns the key and shuts the engine. And how
many for you? This is where she feels her foot
ease off the brake.

from Rattle #73, Fall 2021


Michael Mark: “This poem came to me when my father told me his friends want him to find a girlfriend—Dad is 94 and his friends are older. They all (pre-Covid) go out, and Dad feels like a third wheel, he said. That sparked the poem.” (web)

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