Archives for category: Learning to Drive

1964 catalina
Lead Foot
by Catfish McDaris

My granny drove her 64 Pontiac
Catalina a few miles from town,
she scooted over while I walked
around the car, I was a tall 13

It was an automatic transmission
so I dropped it into drive, we were
on red dirt roads in the middle of
sugar beet fields, I poked along

Until granny said hit it, my grandpa
called her lead foot, I made her sit
back when I goosed that new blue
car, we were flying, I hit some bumps

Our heads were knocking off the roof
top, she told me to slow down and stop,
we practiced in reverse and parking,
it was fun, I wanted to drive forever

When I was a baby granny rolled a car
in Albuquerque with me inside, we were
tossed like clothes in a dryer she broke
her fingers and couldn’t play guitar again

I still think about her singing The Streets
of Laredo and me putting on Cream’s
version of Sitting on Top of the World and
her knowing it, I don’t miss driving a bit.

PHOTO: 1964 Pontiac Catalina.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Catfish McDaris has been active in the small press world for 25 years. He shot howitzers three years in the army and used to fish and hunt as a boy in New Mexico. Sometimes he goes down to Lake Michigan and feeds seagulls and dreams of mountain horses. He was working in a wig shop in a high crime area of Milwaukee.


by Trista Hurley-Waxali

“Hey there handsome, want a ride?”

I catch my friend wearing the signature red smock walking from the bus stop. He walks the same route each day to work, which is why I took this road with my new driver’s permit in the glovebox. I’m not yet comfortable with driving on the main street during rush hour so I stay behind the plaza on a local’s favorite shortcut. He rests his lunchbox on the backseat and leans forward to fiddle with the volume on my radio. I smile at him and catch the late afternoon sun reflecting off the hood. This moment feels like pure freedom, even if I am driving to work.

“I’m just going to park in the other lane and we won’t be late…”

I slam on my brakes in the thoroughfare. For somewhere in my wide right turn, I end inches away from a head-on collision with an on-duty police cruiser. I don’t move a muscle; I even forget to breathe.

“Ma’am you can put the car in park.”

I do it without saying a word, trying to not let the sweat on my palms loosen my grip. I muster out an apology.

“It’s fine. Next time you might want to be careful on how you drive your boyfriend around.”

He’s not my boyfriend. Is what I want to say to the officer. But as a brown girl in a predominantly white neighbourhood, that’s not what I say. I don’t have an opportunity to speak here and I don’t have the luxury of making this mistake twice. I wave to the officer as he walks back to his car.

“You’re not my boyfriend,” I finally say.

“I know, but it was nice while it lasted.”

PHOTO: “Blinding Lights” by klorom, used by permission.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: I don’t normally work within prompts but this is a moment that’s been haunting me ever since that afternoon. So working within the word limit parameters I felt that I could finally put this memory to rest.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Trista Hurley-Waxali is a transplant from Toronto, Canada, now perched on barstools in West Hollywood. She has performed at Avenue 50, Stories Bookstore, and internationally at O’bheal Poetry Series in Cork, Ireland, and a TransLate Night show from Helsinki Poetry Connection. She is currently working on her novel, At This Juncture.

Retro woman behind steering wheel
Today we’ll run two additional pieces in our LEARNING TO DRIVE Poetry & Prose Series, which we concluded on May 5, 2016. Apologies to the authors for misfiling their submissions into the “done” folder. My bad — but they’re good (really good!)


Your humbled editor

Retro woman behind steering wheel
We extend our heartfelt thanks to the 95 writers — from 23 states and 19 countries — who participated in our LEARNING TO DRIVE Poetry & Prose Series, which ran from March 25 – May 5, 2016. Many thanks to the following authors for an awesome series!

Elizabeth Alford (California)
Daisy Bala (Wisconsin)
Nina Bannett (New York)
David-Matthew Barnes (Colorado)
Sarah Bigham (Maryland)
Shelly Blankman (Maryland)
Rose Mary Boehm (Peru)
Karen Boissonneault-Gauthier (Canada)
Kitty Bowerman (California)
Lucia Cherciu (New York)
Tricia Marcella Cimera (Illinois)
Marcus Clayton (California)
Courtney Mae Cochran (Minnesota)
Joan Colby (Illinois)
Clive Collins (Japan)
Linda Jackson Collins (California)
Daniel Roy Connelly (Italy)
Yvonne Connor (Canada)
Gail Cory-Betz (Washington)
Kymm Coveney (Spain)
Isobel Cunningham (Canada)
Bill Cushing (California)
Linda Katherine Cutting (Massachusetts)
Howard Richard Debs (Florida)
J.C. Elkin (Maryland)
Kristina England (Massachusetts)
Alejandro Escudé (California)
Jennifer Finstrom (Illinois)
Joan Gannij (Netherlands)
Lourdes A Gautier (New Jersey)
Gail Fishman Gerwin (New Jersey)
Jessica Goodfellow (Japan)
Vijaya Gowrisankar (India)
Torrin Greathouse (California)
Tina Groumoutis (Missouri)
Geosi Gyasi (Ghana)
Jack Habegger (California)
Nikki Hess (Pennsylvania)
Kate Hodges (Pennsylvania)
Trista Hurley-Waxali (California)
Mathias Jansson (Sweden)
Sasha Kasoff (California)
Lloyd Kerns (Japan)
Rachel Lynn Kesselman (France)
Sofia Kioroglou (Greece)
Rachel Kolman (Florida)
Jennifer Lagier (California)
Matthew Laverty (Massachusetts)
Joan Leotta (North Carolina)
j.lewis (California)
Bryanna Licciardi (Tennessee)
Christina Marrocco (Illinois)
Mary McCarthy (Pennsylvania)
Catfish McDaris (Wisconsin)
Kelly McDivitt (Pennsylvania)
Joan McNerney (New York)
Jory Mickelson (Washington)
Leah Mueller (Washington)
Steve Nash (England)
Robbi Nester (California)
Nancy A. Nichols (Massachusetts)
Faye Pantazopoulos (Rhode Island)
Margaret Parker (Michigan)
Jay Passer (California)
Jessica Patient (England)
Diane Payne (Arizona)
James Penha (Indonesia)
Shirani Rajapakse (Sri Lanka)
Patrick T. Reardon (Illinois)
Natalie Rees (England)
Diana Rosen (California)
Vincent Van Ross (India)
Sue Russell (Pennsylvania)
Allison Saft (Pennsylvania)
Iris Saltus (Nevada)
Robb Shaffer (North Carolina)
Ndaba Sibanda (Kuwait)
Amanda Forbes Silva (New Hampshire)
Massimo Soranzio (Italy)
Diane Stark (Kansas)
Carol A. Stephen (Canada)
David Subacchi (Wales)
Maureen Sudlow (New Zealand)
Alarie Tennille (Missouri)
Kaytie Rose Thomas (Scotland)
Thomas R. Thomas (California)
Odile Vidrine (Georgia)
Lynne Viti (Massachusetts)
Mercedes Webb-Pullman (New Zealand)
Kelley White (New Hampshire)
Lynn White (Wales)
Lisa Wiley (New York)
Brandy Wilkinson (Indiana)
Laura Winkelspecht (Wisconsin)


Scenic Road Drive
by Jory Mickelson

Lead to this Highway, all you roads,
            for it is well-shouldered and outstretched.

Intersect with this Highway all you roads,
            for it is lambent and holy.

The track of this Highway is along the rivers.
The Highway crosses,
            it bridges and traverses the waters.

The voice of this Highway is concrete,
            it is a voice of countless rumble strips.

The track of the Highway cleaves thickets of trees,
it rends the wilderness like a curtain,
            the Highway unbelts every mountain from its valley.

The span of this Highway makes fence posts to crumble,
            causes buildings to dissolve into rearview.

The Highway, it shall carry us
            and at the end, we shall receive its blessing.

And in our car upon this Highway,
            we are saying “Farther, farther.”

PHOTO: “Scenic Drive” by Tomasz Zajada, used by permission.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Jory Mickelson’s work has appeared in The Florida Review, CutBank Literary Journal, The Carolina Quarterly, Superstition Review, The Collagist, The Los Angeles Review, The Adirondack Review, and other journals. He is the recipient of an Academy of American Poet’s Prize and a Lambda Literary Fellowship in Poetry. Additionally, he served as the 2014 Poetry Editor for Codex Journal. You can follow him @poetryphone on Twitter.

golden angel in the sunlight (antique statue)
They Say You Shouldn’t Learn to Drive in the Cemetery
by Matthew Laverty

I drove for the first time in the cemetery
where nimble concrete bent precariously
while interwoven lawn
seemed to be a bland imposter.

As a child

          I swung from the low branches
and hoped for small things with quiet eyes,
played in a park by my uncle’s ashes
and grandparents that lay together.

Drove in disillusioned circles at sixteen
by remains of the 19th century
and woods with dirt paths that lead to heaven:
passed down by generation,
a party spot, a place where you go
with your first girlfriend
and learn the way we all do.

Smokes and packs of smokes got me lifts
to wherever I liked.
A park, a mall,
to a girlfriend after a while
who drove and drove. Seven years later now
she lives right by, can’t forget the stuff she likes,
car-rides and coast-line still
subtle Rorschach inklings.

Sparked up on lunch-break of driver’s ed
one modest New England Summer
and by the next I had a permit,
and that summer in that cemetery
with the same faded grass
that seemed more colorful
festooned by the moon’s glow,
young skin on thin blanket,
we lay and smiled.

Went off to college without her
and wondered eighty-two credits later why
I watched her leave, watched that permit expire.

The second one seemed to leave me just as fast
as another couple girls
I dated after did,
and the same city I live in today
is stranded under similar clouds
that come and go
as the wind tells them to.

PHOTO: “Cemetery angel” by zwiegackesser, used by permission.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: I am a rather strange case when it comes to driving. I went through all of the pre-requirements of getting a license like going to drivers education and getting a permit, but I never went through with actually getting a license. So the creative process was really an eye opening one for me as it still doesn’t make sense why I don’t have one years later. I actually had been working on this for a few hours a week after I saw the prompt, and I had lot more material than I used but I wanted to keep it shorter and more concise.

Laverty1 (1)

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Matthew Laverty is an aspiring writer from the suburbs of Boston. He is an alumnus of The University of Massachusetts, Lowell, where he earned his B.L.A. degree with dual concentrations in English (Writing) and History. He has studied creative writing under poet Maggie Dietz and critically acclaimed author Andre Dubus III. Laverty’s poetry has been featured three times in the annual literary magazine of the University of Massachusetts, Lowell, The Offering, and is forthcoming in the multi-volume series Where the Mind Dwells (Eber & Wein).

AUTHOR’S PHOTO CAPTION: This photo was taken around the time I was learning to drive (I was about 17).

Car traffic jam
Driving Test
by Vincent Van Ross

My driving lessons began
In an isolated park
Where there were
Fewer chances
Of my banging
Into someone or something

Once there
I got into the driver’s seat
And, my friend sat
Next to me
Then, I pulled out the ignition key
And, started the car

I was asked
To press the clutch
And the brake
With my feet
And, then,
Engage the gear

I engaged the gear
But my friend yelled
Stop, that’s gear number three
So, I returned to neutral
And then engaged
Gear number one

Then, I released
The brake
And stepped
On the accelerator
The car started with a jerk
And, stopped the very next moment

“Take it easy,” advised my friend
Soon after I started the car,
I was heading for a rock
In the middle of the park
“Stop!” he cried as I was about to ram into it
I literally stood on the brake to bring it to a halt

After a while
My friend told me
That I should learn
To use the steering wheel
And before I knew what was happening,
I was going round in circles

It was fun
And, I got a hang of it
Within a week I was ready
To venture out
Of the park
And into the streets

All the learners in the park
Used the road around it
To fine-tune their driving skills
And, the moment a driver saw
A car behind him, he would speed up
For fear of being rammed from behind

Once I learnt my ropes
And found my bearings
I even took
The driving test
And obtained
A driving license

But, to this day
Every time I drive my car
Into the mean streets
In the middle of heavy traffic
I always get the feeling
That I am still taking a driving test

© Vincent Van Ross

IMAGE: “Traffic Jam” by robodread, used by permission.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: This is an original poem composed exclusively to the Silver Birch Press prompt. This is how I learnt how to drive a car!


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Vincent Van Ross is a journalist and writer based at New Delhi in India. He writes on national and international politics, defence, environment, travel, and scores of other topics. Besides this, he dabbles in poetry, fiction and nonfictional writing. His articles and features have appeared in over a dozen newspapers and magazines in India. He is also a renowned creative photographer and an art critic.

vintage truck
dad’s knees
by j.lewis

were knobby and wobbly, but then
what did that matter when
there i sat, small hands on the wheel
of an old ford truck
my only job to hold on, hold on
as dad played the gas and clutch
slid the gears up and down
me giggling and bouncing
on the hobby horse of his lap
as we barreled down dirt roads
at five or ten miles an hour

in child-speed, that was a hundred or more
and there was nothing too big to conquer
i was a man driving a truck
and with every bump in the road
came dad’s reassuring voice
that would fuel me for a lifetime

PHOTO: “Man and boy driving,” vintage photo available at ebay.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: Learning to drive a stick shift was a rite of passage, and expected in rural New Mexico. My brothers and I took turns learning to drive as soon as we were tall enough to see over the steering wheel of dad’s Ford pickup, sitting on his lap, bouncing down dirt roads. Thanks to his strong grip on the wheel, we somehow never crashed.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: j.lewis is an internationally published poet, musician, and nurse practitioner. He has had a valid driver’s license for over 50 years. When he is not in his Mini Cooper, he is often on a kayak, exploring and photographing the waterways near his home in California.

AUTHOR PHOTO: Qualified to drive anything with four wheels. Taken at the California Automobile Museum, Sacramento, California. Credit: Karlyn H. Lewis 2/18/2016.Used by permission.

Need for Speed
by Mathias Jansson

I never took a driving license
But I have the Need for Speed
I want to be in Pole Position
I have driven a Lamborghini
A Ferrari, a Porsche and a Corvette
I have been chased by cops
Down a serpentine road
In high speed
I have crashed, flipped and burnt
From the highest cliff
Without a scratch
Behind the screen
I always feel safe
Gripping my virtual steering wheel

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: When I was young I started to learn how to drive, but I never finished and never took a driver’s license. Instead I spent many hours driving cars in video games. It was more fun and more safe. The image is from the video game Pole Position, one of the earliest racing games I liked to play in the eighties.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Mathias Jansson is a Swedish art critic and poet. He has contributed with visual poetry to magazines such as Lex-ICON, Anatematiskpress, Quarter After #4, andMaintenant 8: A Journal of Contemporary Dada. He has also published a chapbook at this is visual poetry and contributed with erasure poetry to anthologies from Silver Birch Press. Visit him at, or his author’s page at

Driving Lessons
by Laura Winkelspecht

to shift
first through
fourth then
one foot
off gas
one foot
on clutch
start and
stop and
clutch and
shift and
clutch and
gas and
clutch and
shift and
gas and
go and
shift and
gears turn:
the wheel
of an
old brown

IMAGE: Ad for 1972 Ford Pinto.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: I learned how to drive a manual transmission in a Pinto station wagon while driving from Wisconsin to Texas with my new husband. With this poem, I used two syllable lines to imitate the short, jerky movement of someone learning how to drive a manual transmission for the first time.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Laura Winkelspecht writes with the hope of finding some lightning among the lightning bugs. Her work has been featured in NEAT, Clementine Poetry Review, American Tanka, and she is a contributor to the Wisconsin Poet’s Calendar.