This is the evening my sister drove home
in the ’78 Nova that drained
her first savings account at Farmer’s National.
She folded sweaters for it,
tossed newspapers onto porches,
scrubbed pots and pans for Dr. Choy
who spanked life into us
at the county hospital,
sacrificing a year’s worth
of Friday and Saturday nights
for this very moment,
a set of keys she wouldn’t have to ask
permission to borrow on her way
to Eddie’s Grille or the movies.
Out came our mother picking dried plum
from her fingernails. She circled the car,
her mouth forming the zero of loss
as she inspected the torn front seat, the bald tires,
the slow drip of black water from the engine.
She said, I suppose next you’ll want your own place,
and then muttered something else, a little cooler,
farther away, before returning to her crumb pie
in the kitchen, screen door slamming shut
on my sister and her night,
darkness gliding west as she crouched
beside her investment, red-faced and confused,
going back over the wheels, the splash guards,
the pool of oil that would cling to the driveway
and never quite let go.
—from Rattle #27, Summer 2007