“Cleve,” Dad would say,
wagging his head.
“He buys a brand new truck,
and one by one, things go bad.
A wiper blade — doesn’t replace it.
A scratch — doesn’t repaint it.
Pretty soon he’s driving a wreck.”

So naturally, my father’s son,
when I fall asleep in my van
in the Last Call parking lot,
I wish it didn’t have this gash
in the front where I hit the deer.
I’d rather crash in a perfect van,
a van Dad would be proud of.

Mom’s dad, Grandpa Cleve —
he’d let his vehicle go to hell,
and then he’d buy a new one.
He couldn’t read a lick of music,
yet he could make a fiddle talk.
He could make a fiddle sing
and Mom would sing along.

Like Cleve, I’ve learned to live
with dents and broken stuff.
I stood at his coffin when I was ten.
He was the first dead body I’d seen.
“Can I touch him,” I asked my mom,
and did, till Dad said “That’s enough.”
Enough for him, he must’ve meant.


©James L. Ralston


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