I learned to drive in a 1975
midnight blue Impala
made by Chevrolet – in the U.S. of A.
The kind with settee-seats so big
you kept a beat-up box of 8 trax
beside you with your purse;
your old man’s Mantovani,
in there with Irish pub songs and
a copy of the Eagles’ Hotel California.
The kind with a trunk so big
it could hold a couple of marked men
in cement shoes, goin’ for a cruise
to the end of the road.
And Daddy, he was out on a Raleigh
ten-speed; blowin’ with the wind
on those back roads;
tryin’ to erase those days
of civil servant-servitude ;
hopin’ for a fresh start
in the Import-Export biz,
that was never gonna happen.
I was sittin’ in a schoolbus
on a patched green leather seat
readin’ a Miracle or Mystery play;
headin’ home from 4th year Uni;
when he was lyin’ in a ditch
or being lifted by a chopper
pointed towards I.C.U. —
black and blue and bloated
as a blowfish on a Tokyo platter.
Some shithead hit him
with a side-mirror he never saw comin’ ;
Left him for dead, just like that episode
Of Mannix or maybe Barnaby Jones?
Only this one never got solved.
I sailed midnight blue Christine –
that’s what I called her – from that King book –
tryin’ to have a look down dark,
country roads I didn’t even know–
Came up with nothin’ and went home.
Mom and me, and little sis,
we were sittin’ on the piano bench
in the front room. Two cops, nice as pie,
their walkies cracklin’ with the cacklin’
of some stranger sayin’ some guy’d
been found on Sixth Line
and they’d taken him to “Mac” —
a hospital attached to that university
where I’d been to see Martha and the Muffins
and drunk shots of Tequila for the first
and last time, cuz there was nothin’ else.
Well, you don’t want to hear it
and I don’t want to tell ya about
those years that followed.
Let’s say it was “Hell” and leave it
I remember feelin’ so free
each time I took Christine
up the street and turned right —
headin’ out for a night
Of dancin’ and drinkin’ —
no seatbelts, no MADD, no sense.
Lucky I didn’t get killed
once or twice.
One time I was seein’ a sous-chef
workin’ in a restaurant
that served up escargots
with chablis and crème brulee
for afters. He smelled like garlic
all the time, but he made a mean
plate of eggs, scrambled, just
like my daddy used to.
He was workin the afternoon shift
so I met up with a girlfriend
at a place called “O’Tooles” .
We bellied up to the bar
and ordered some cocktails.
Mine was a “G and T”
and I swear I only had the one ,
but when I got out to the mall lot
my head was just fuzzy enough
to forget that rule of thumb
I’d heard too many times:
“Straighten your wheels”.
So when I pulled out of her spot
the Imp’s big nose nudged the
Hot-off-the-belt beauty beside
With the pristine red paint
–Hoisting her up off the ground!
I spun those wheels to the right
so fast – edged Christine back
and watched the little deuce coupe
drop slowly to the ground.
I’m a moral person, honest I am;
in other days, I’d a got out and
left a note beggin’ for forgiveness–
phone number, insurance – the lot, but
I had a post-coma, paranoid father,
prone to rages and near-suicide,
so this ride was going to have
to stay quiet. Forever.
I learned to drive in a 1975
midnight blue Impala.
When the day came she got carted away
there was a gap in her front grill
a hole in the floor
and a door so stuck you had
to get in from the other side
to go for a ride.
She took my secret to her grave.