“Old Blue” by Devon Miller-Duggan

Devon Miller-Duggan


for my father

A thing that’s named “Old Blue” should be a dog,
some flop-eared, lazy hound. Your Blue was
just a car. Okay, not just a car—an Oldsmobile
from back before we believed fuel was scarce,
from back when men made cars for men with lots of kids
and fathers piled their kids into their cars and
spent their Sundays on back roads, going
nowhere other than to see what could be seen from roads.

Your Blue drove like a frigate cut the waves,
and you loved Blue enough, and roads enough,
and seeing what was out along the roads
enough that you and Blue took trips alone—
you’d head out west or north, just you and Blue,
and stop to read the paragraphs on signs—
“PITTSBURGH: Gateway to the West,”
“HENRY M. LELAND: Designer of Cadillac and Lincoln cars…”
“The Haven peach varieties were developed here by…”
“Just off the Highway to Rochester, Minnesota…”

You’d rise at dawn and drive to dark
and eat the buffalo or chowder in the diners
by the secondary roads. Gone for
weeks, alone except for strangers you’d
charm into friends-along-the-way,
pocketing their stories and then sharing
one or two with us when you came home.

They took your body out, the hearse parked
right behind Old Blue. It’d been months
since you could drive—the cancer in your skin
turned inward toward your brain. I haven’t asked
who gets Old Blue. Your wife would think
I wanted it. You’d think my not asking meant
I didn’t know how much it meant, or didn’t care.

Here’s my wish: you at Blue’s wheel,
your elbow on the open window frame,
unpoliced and doing 80 on a rolling road toward mountains.
The sky’s almost as blue and shining as Old Blue, and
up ahead a marker by the road retells a story you will
laugh at, and a diner waits. The locals love your stories—
you tell the one about how many ways you invented
to peel potatoes when you had KP as a private—and
the waitress flirts and looks like Mitzi Gaynor,
and the peaches in the pie you have with breakfast
hit your tongue with all the buttered sweetness you can bear,
and Blue runs like a mythic athlete, and
every state you cross takes you away from me.

from Rattle #34, Winter 2010
Rattle Poetry Prize Honorable Mention


Devon Miller-Duggan: “After 25 years of teaching everything from a class on Fisher King mythology to comparative lit. surveys, I am finally (having at last gotten a book out) teaching creative writing, and for all the debates about whether it’s good for writers to teach writing and whether it can be taught at all, I just plain love it. That being said, my most recent ‘accomplishment’ is probably having gotten up in time to start the monastic day at 4:00 a.m. at Christ in the Desert, and having done the whole cycle, including singing antiphonally in Latin and weeding the hops field—all of which only added a layer of certainty to my conviction that I am about as unfit for a monastic life as it’s possible to be.”

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