Poetry / Stanley Plumly

:: 1946 ::

To leave for Ohio the year after the war,
four of us pinched in between possessions
in a ‘29 Ford sedan, which you have to
talk to before you crank it up and even
then it farts and sputters and spits back. 
How many times it tries to break my arm,
how many times it sparks and kicks and fails.
My mother sits in the backseat with my sister,
my father drives like a soldier finally free.
I’m seven and crazy to be killed, riding shotgun
through the heart of summer, all the windows down.
We drive and drive that long first day a whole hour
after dark on narrow roads with narrow passing lanes.
We drive and drive—I don’t remember now ever having
stopped, except to pee or find a bar somewhere, usually
at the tag end of a town, the neon flashing off and on,
Ohio being forever in front of us and the way things are.


From the writer

:: Account ::

I’ve taken a few lines from a short, short poem I wrote 40 or so years ago and found the “truth” in the experience by running it through memory a few more hundred times. Hence the new poem. The ‘29 Ford was a four-door with a crank in front that had to be wound up, so to speak, to get it started. It had a real and dangerous kick to it, and it did almost break my arm more than once. Somewhere there’s a picture of me with my great-grandfather standing in front of the car. He’s the father of my mother’s mother; a one-room school teacher all his life, who rode his bicycle to school every day, the bicycle he bought from the Wright Brothers shop in Dayton at the turn of the century. 


Stanley Plumly’s most recent book of poems is Orphan Hours (W. W. Norton, 2012).  He has just completed The Immortal Evening, which Norton will publish in early 2015. He is a Distinguished University Professor at the University of Maryland.