American Life in Poetry: Column 476

BY TED KOOSER, U.S. POET LAUREATE

Parents and children. Sometimes it seems that’s all there is to life. In this poem Donna Spector, from New York state, gives us a ride that many of us may have taken, hanging on for dear life.

On the Way to the Airport

You’re speeding me down the Ventura freeway
in your battered Scout, patched since your angry
crash into the drunken pole that swerved into your road.
We’ve got no seat belts, no top, bald tires,
so I clutch any metal that seems as though it might
be firm, belie its rusted rattling. Under my
August burn I’m fainting white, but I’m trying
to give you what you want: an easy mother.

For the last two days you’ve been plugged
into your guitar, earphones on, door closed. I spoiled
our holiday with warnings about your accidental
life, said this time I wouldn’t rescue you, knowing
you’d hate me, knowing I’d make myself sick. We’re
speaking now, the airport is so near, New York closer
than my birthday tomorrow, close as bearded death
whose Porsche just cut us off in the fast lane.

When you were three, you asked if God lived
under the street. I said I didn’t know, although
a world opened under my feet walking with you
over strange angels, busy arranging our fate. Soon,
if we make it, I’ll be in the air, where people say God lives,
the line between you and me stretched thinner,
thinner but tight enough still to bind us,
choke us both with love. Your Scout, putty-colored
as L.A. mornings, protests loudly but hangs on.


We do not accept unsolicited submissions. American Life in Poetry is made possible by The Poetry Foundation (www.poetryfoundation.org), publisher of Poetry magazine. It is also supported by the Department of English at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Poem copyright © 2013 by Donna Spector, whose most recent book of poems is The Woman Who Married Herself, Evening Street Press, 2010. Poem reprinted from Rattle, Vol. 19, no. 3, by permission of Donna Spector and the publisher. Introduction copyright © 2018 by The Poetry Foundation. The introduction's author, Ted Kooser, served as United States Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress from 2004-2006.