COLBY for Silver Birch1a
Driving Lessons
by Joan Colby

It stuck with me, the admonition
“To look forward, never back.”
A rearview mirror, “who needs that”
Except to check the stock trailer
Swaying behind, the horses locking
Their hocks for balance. For years,
That’s how I drove. Blind luck.

I was 14 and eager
To see how fast that Caddy could go
On those Montana roads.
Sherry held a quart of beer
In the suicide seat. On the radio
Someone sang about
Living fast and dying young.
I double-clutched and jammed the pedal
To the floorboards. That Caddy could
Do 120 flat out on the way to Roundup.

Yesterday’s news: my old jeep subject
To recall: a rear-end collision—
Ruptured gas line, a sheet of flame,
That, while I paid no attention,
Has been gaining on me all this time,
Waiting for the day I suddenly brake
To avoid something in the road ahead
While the mirror I never look at darkens.

SOURCE: This poem appeared in Milk Sugar in 2015.

PHOTO: The author in Montana at age 14 when she got her driver’s license.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Joan Colby has published widely in journals such as Poetry, Atlanta Review, South Dakota Review,etc. Awards include two Illinois Arts Council Literary Awards, an Illinois Arts Council Fellowship in Literature. She has published 16 books including Selected Poems from FutureCycle Press which received the 2013 FutureCycle Prize and Ribcage from Glass Lyre Press which has been awarded the 2015 Kithara Book Prize. She is also a senior editor of FutureCycle Press and an associate editor of Kentucky Review.