le mans
my father’s red car
by Shelly Blankman

my father’s red car
a grand le mans,
shiny like wet paint,
fuzzy and warm inside
with that new car smell

he was so proud of me
ten weeks of lessons,
or was it eleven,
and now I was
finally ready
to graduate from
empty lots to streets
with my father beside me.

first, buckle in.
i knew that part.
that was easy.
then find the gas
pedal, to the left,
no, the right, then
the brake, that must
be the pedal, now
adjust the seat and
ready, set…oops,
the rearview mirror,
a tad up, a tad back,
perfect. now ready to drive.

pulling out of
my parking spot no
human targets or
parked cars, a
a little weaving,
probably wobbly
tires, yeah, that’s it.
no sweat.

signal left, hesitate,
then proceed slowly,
slowly, and yield
onto a bigger street.

my father smiles.
leans back, his
shoulders relax.
he’s in capable hands.

and then it happens
as if in a dream.
i turn onto the highway.
your life flashes before
your eyes, they say,
but not for me.

what flashed for me
was a light pole, like
a giant silver rolling pin
dropped on its side
flattening wildflowers
like pie dough.

in a blur of blue
flashes, a police
car screeches
next to us. my father
wasn’t smiling anymore.

i’d never seen him cry
or a shiny red accordion
as big as a car.
“are you ok?” he asked.
talking to me or the car.
i wasn’t certain.

there’s nothing worse
than going out
for a driving lesson
in your father’s
brand new
bright red car
and coming home
in a police car.

IMAGE: Pontiac LeMans circa early 1970s.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: As most teenagers, I couldn’t wait to learn to drive. However, when the time came, my experience was disastrous. After taking lessons at three driving schools with five driving instructors, one of whom advised me to stop lessons altogether, I was as determined as ever. That’s when my father agreed to take me out to practice, and…well…hence, the poem. Subsequently, I was diagnosed with no spatial or depth perception and no peripheral vision. That didn’t bring back my father’s car, but at least I felt absolved!


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Shelly Blankman is an empty-nester living in Columbia, Maryland, with her husband, Jon, and four cats. They are the proud parents of two sons, Richard, 31, of New York, and Joshua, 29, of Texas. Shelly spent most of her professional career in public relations and copy editing, but her first love has always been poetry. She enjoys making scrapbooks and cards, and, of course, writing.