Archives for posts with tag: cars

crossroads 1
I Am Passenger; He Is Driver
by Shannon Milliman

I am passenger. He is driver. He is scheduled to test for his driver’s license.
He has asked if he could drive the two-hour route, mostly freeway
And with light waning into hours of darkness.
I told him yes, he could drive but every cell in my being wanted to say no.
I am still waiting for the moment when the gift of agency
Feels triumphant.

Do you know what it is like to give up control in the seat of the driver?
To have uncertainty that the flesh and blood in your male mirror image has the practice and mental agility to drive in City conditions at night getting his sister and mother and self to safety?
In my mind I whisper that he wants to preserve himself, too.

There is no reason he would want to fail in this endeavor. He is equally vested in safety.
Is this faith? Is it the opposite of fear?
I breathe. I tell myself to breathe. I remind myself of the mechanics of what it takes.
Fill these balloon vessels with oxygen.
I remember when his balloon vessels first filled with air and he cried,
Arriving on planet earth, little, tiny 5 lbs. 14 ounce Moses, We gave him a name and a blessing
To live up to.
A name that assured he could do the impossible.
He could part waters.
He could drive us to Astoria, Oregon.

I hid my two hands, which stressed and wrangling one another like two chickens in a cock fight. I hid them in my husband’s blue knit FedEx cap.
I can’t believe Simon has kept this hat that long.
He worked at FedEx when Moses was about 2 years old.
I remember Moses rambling off on his own.
Slow to speak, quick to think, this little guy had a mission and left the safe quarters of our apartment complex and pitter-pattered his little patent leather shoes
All the way to the edge of busy thoroughfare, Glisan Street.
A police officer and a man swooped this toddling two-year-old up
And asked him where he should be. No words. He pointed home.
I did not even know he was missing.
Adrianna, his next youngest sister, was a newborn.
I had birthed my first anxiety attack wherein I thought I was dying.
Three was infinitely more children than two.
Embarrassed that I did not know my son was on the verge of death
And simultaneously grateful he was safe home with a stranger’s help.
All this while Simon worked at Fed Ex wearing the cap
Now on my hands hiding my presumptive grief when we all crashed and died.

We might make it
To Gnat Creek Campground where there are only four campsites,
First come, first served, it is a January Friday night.
How many suckers out there would brave the cold?
The odds are ever in our favor.
Moses had cheated death before.
Please may he cheat it for all of us once more?
I could imagine the three of us,
Rainbow age eleven, me age forty, and Moses age sixteen, setting up camp.
I watched Moses gather lint from the car and tinder
From the wrapped towel he brought along with plum hardwood
Trimmed from the tree in our backyard.
We let it dry by the radiator in Simon’s music studio for three days
But before that it was outside in a Pacific Northwest winter so who knows.

If you watch well enough the meandering road
And if you shift your weight enough,
And grip the rubber handlebar tight enough
And remind yourself to breathe,
You will breathe
And you will get there.
And there we were, us three around that fire,
Safely roasting a marshmallow
And smashing it next to a graham cracker
And a Symphony bar square.
Oh, the mellowness of chocolate melting in my mouth.
Safe, secure, together.

When we pull into the gravel campground
And find out we are the only people there
I look up at the infirmary of stars.
I had prayed heavenward.
God, please protect my little man child.
Were they blessing my boy Moses?
Leading him like they led the wise men to the Christ Child?
I tell my Moses I am sorry
I hesitated to let him drive,
That he did an excellent job.
He did.
His pace was steady,
His switching of lanes confident.
It is so easy to say sorry afterwards and so much harder to trust him when necessary.
Why, oh, why was it so, so, so, scary?

PHOTO: Crossroads by Ehrif, used by permission.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Shannon Milliman is a playwright and performer who has performed her autobiographical, one-woman play, Not So Supernova, about the jagged edges of motherhood and marriage in Oregon, Alaska, Pennsylvania, and Idaho. She is writing her grandparents’ life story and has studied memoir at the Attic Institute (Portland, Oregon) and holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in English from Brigham Young University. Shannon has five children, a musician husband and is a Certified Professional in Talent Development and works as a Benefits, Disability, Leave Services Trainer at Amazon. Visit her at, and on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Linkedin, Youtube, and applepodcasts.

My Buick
by Cheryl Levine

At seventeen, my life revolved around a 1969 light blue Buick Electra 225.

The Buick offered a heady freedom for this sheltered small town girl. I could climb into the car, turn the key in the ignition and go. Just go. My mother’s only requirements for use of the Buick were that I wait in the long 1970’s gas lines that stretched for blocks to fill the tank, drive my younger sister around when she needed a ride, and go into town to grab a gallon of milk or a loaf of bread at Cumberland Farms.


On Friday nights we would fit four girlfriends in the back seat and four in the front. No seat belts, of course. The AM push-button radio was always set to WRKO 680, as we blasted the music and sang along with Elton John, Carly Simon, and Stevie Wonder. My love of driving began with that Buick, as did the feeling of freedom whenever I climbed behind that wheel, knowing that I could, if I wanted, go anywhere.

At seventeen, on hot summer mornings, we piled beach blankets, towels, cokes and chips into the Buick’s cavernous trunk and took off up Route 128 to Crane’s Beach, with all of the windows rolled down, the hot breeze whipping our hair back. Everyone pitched in $1 for gas and it was always magically enough. We baked in the sun and leaped through the ocean waves, bought hot dogs and fries at the food truck, came home with scorching sunburns, and couldn’t wait to do it again the next week.

PHOTO: 1969 Buick Electra (found at

AUTHOR’S PHOTO CAPTION: My senior yearbook photo.

Cheryl Levine
lives and writes just outside of Boston.


Calling My Dad on Father’s Day
by Marianne Peel

I remember him
not letting me drive myself to college
until I’d practiced changing a tire three times.
He gave me an index card
in his penciled hand
reminding me what I need to do
and when
to maintain properly my car.
I still have that card.
the only writing I have
that belongs to his hand.

But today
I interrupted
the Nascar he was watching.
Out of Seattle, not Indy, he told me.

He stayed on the line
twenty minutes.
Muted the race.
The longest conversation
I’ve ever had with dad.

He asked about the brakes on my G6 Pontiac.
We discussed warped rotors, machining,
the amount the shop shaved off.
I knew his mechanic’s vocabulary.
He assured me they did right by me at the shop,
only charging me eighty for the service.

In the heated garage, growing up,
he’d plunge his hands in Goop,
massage this grease into the lines of his hands.
He would press down hard on his nail beds,
trying to dislodge stubborn oil.

And so tonight,
after silence filled the space between
Arizona and Michigan again,
I vacuumed out my car:
road dirt, leaf fragments, twigs, gravel bits,
bread crumbs from that French baguette

I took Armor All to the dashboard
pressing with elbow grease into the leather.
Making it shine.
I squirted Bug and Tar Be-Gone
onto a lumpy rag,
wishing I had the smooth yellow chamois cloth
he used to use.
I knuckled down
a full body press
and erased splattered insects
from the front bumper of my Pontiac.
Just because
I know
how much he admires
a clean, clean car.

AUTHOR’S PHOTO CAPTION: The front and back of the 3 x 5 card my dad gave to me.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: Loved this prompt, as it caused me to reflect on what I consider to be “prized” among my possessions. I’ve accumulated tons of stuff over my 57  years, even though I actually consider myself non-materialistic. I have only one possession from my father: a three x five card with directions on how to take care of my car. He gave this to me as I was leaving for college. He was a mechanic. This was important information for him to share with me.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Marianne Peel taught English at middle and high school for 32 years, and is now retired, doing Field Instructor work for Michigan State University.  She won first prize for poetry in the Spring 2016 Edition of the Gadfly Literary Magazine, and.  also won the Pete Edmonds Poetry Prize. Her work has appeared  in Encodings:  A Feminist Literary Journal; Write to Heal; Writing for Our Lives:  Our Bodies—Hurts, Hungers, Healing;  Mother Voices; Metropolitan Woman Magazine;  Ophelia’s Mom;  Jellyfish Whispers; and Remembered Arts Journal, and will appear in the fall editions of Muddy River Review and EastLit Journal. The recipient of Fulbright-Hays Awards to Nepal and Turkey, she is a flute-playing vocalist, learning to play ukulele. Raising four daughters, she shares her life with her partner Scott, whom she met in Istanbul while studying in Turkey.  She taught teachers in Guizhou Province, China, for three summers, and in January 2016 toured several Chinese provinces with the Valparaiso Symphony, playing both flute and piccolo.  In June 2016, she was invited to participate in Marge Piercy’s Juried Intensive Poetry Workshop.

porsche pop art

Coast-to-Coast Nightmare
by Jasmine Tritten

We were moving from Carmel Valley to Virginia Beach and had not yet left the California agricultural flat lands.

“Jim, the brakes don’t work,” I shouted into the CB radio, panic-stricken.

My eyes focused on the back of the open trailer in front, containing my blue Hyundai car, towed by my husband. He operated a 24-foot rental truck over-stuffed with our paraphernalia. Behind the mass of steel, containing our “life,” I drove his precious yellow Porsche about sixty miles an hour.

“Why are you using the brakes?” He replied. A typical male answer.

“I don’t know why,” I screamed, blood rushing to my head.

“Calm down and keep driving,” he insisted. Is he insane? “Trust me. When I spot a gas station, I’ll coach you to gear down the car to a full halt.”

My heart throbbed.

“Okay,” I responded and continued to stare at the Hyundai in front of my eyes. What if he was forced to stop?

About 30 scary minutes went by before I heard his voice again,

“Are you there?

“Yes,” I replied numb from anxiety.

“Listen,” he continued, “begin to gear down the car to second, drive into the turnoff ahead, and make a full stop using the handbrake.”

I followed his instructions and came to a screeching halt, dust flying.

“Hurrah! I made it! But the gas station is not open on Sundays. We can’t get the car fixed.”

So we swapped cars. I rolled my Hyundai off the trailer and Jim drove up his Porsche chaining it down.

The move ended well in spite of the hiccup. The Porsche got fixed when we arrived in Virginia Beach and lasted another nine years until a heavy hail storm hit the roof of the car.

IMAGE: “Pop art 1962 Porsche 356E” by KWJphotoart. Prints available at


ABOUT THE AUTHOR:  Jasmine Tritten grew up in Denmark and has written journals since childhood. In 1964, she immigrated to the United States, where she obtained a B.A. in Studio Art with a minor in English writing. She published her memoir The Journey of an Adventuresome Dane in the fall of 2015.

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.

chrysler newport

Scooping the Loop
by Nancy A. Nichols

In my hometown of Waukegan, Illinois we scooped the loop every Saturday night—a kind of hypnotic dance where we drove in endless circles around town stopping only to go to the bathroom at Taco Bell.

Back then I drove an old Chrysler Newport sedan. It was two-toned gold and brown with a tan interior. It was beige in both color and affect.

On my first solo drive, I got in and pulled the door shut. It made a kind of clunking sound. I put the car in reverse. It made a popping sound like the joints of an old man.

I backed out of the driveway and onto the road and gave the gas pedal a little push. I felt the car accelerate up a small hill and felt a rush of freedom and power.

I shuddered a little and turned left at the light. Like generations of women before me, I was headed into town in search of a soda and a good book.

PHOTO: 1970 Chrysler Newport

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: I am the daughter of a used car salesman and a former journalist with The Harvard Business Review. I am at work on a book about women and cars and trying to understand the pervasive power of the automobile on all facets of American life—but particularly its effects on women’s lives. When I saw this writing prompt, I couldn’t resist.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR Nancy A. Nichols is the founder of The Great Ideas Studio and the author of Lake Effect: Two Sister’s and a Town’s Toxic Legacy. She is currently at work on a book about women and cars.

by Massimo Soranzio

End of summer on that deserted street
Between old factories and open fields ―
Factories closed now, fields no longer there ―
You taught me how to turn into second,
Not an easy task on a 500,
The original Fiat Five-Hundred,
Requiring a swift play of my right foot
From pedal to pedal, feeling the clutch,
Knowing when it would be ready for me
To push the gear stick into position
And go, enjoying the warm sun and air
From the folded-back rooftop, the same one
That wouldn’t keep the rain out in a storm,
No matter how tight you thought it was locked…

Neither of us knew it would be the last
Time ― I would never get another chance
To learn something from you, to be with you,
To share the joys and fears of growing up.

You did what a good father’s meant to do:
You did not leave before I could drive, too.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: My father taught me to drive about a year before he died, prematurely, aged 56. My driving lessons were great fun, because we were using my mother’s Fiat 500 R – the hard thing was passing from first to second gear, because you needed to perform a complex “dance” with your feet on the pedals, and at the same time “feel,” with your hand on the gear stick, when it was time to change: it was called “la doppietta,” which sounds more like Lewis Carroll’s wordgame, the doublet, than the actual English technical term, “double clutch.”

AUTHOR’S PHOTO CAPTION: I seem to have no picture of myself and the old Cinquecento, so here’s a picture of my father Rino, as a young man in the 1950s, with his old blue Fiat Topolino. He still had it when I was a little child in the early 60s, and it is the first family car I can remember.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Massimo Soranzio writes on the northern Adriatic coast of Italy, about 20 miles from Trieste. He teaches English as a foreign language and English literature in a high school, and has been a journalist, a translator, and a freelance lecturer on Modernist literature and literary translation. He took part in the Found Poetry Review’s National Poetry Month challenges Oulipost (2014) and PoMoSco (2015), and in a virtual tour around the world with an international group of poets on

1960 Ramler

Rambling On
by Gail Cory-Betz

My Daddy’s Mother, my Grandma, drove like a bat out of hell. She started driving when she was young, and could drive anything that had wheels on it. I spent a lot of summer vacations on my grandparent’s farm, so, of course, I was strongly influenced by my Grandma.

One summer, when I was 12 or 13, I was helping my Grandpa cut up firewood with a two-man saw. He didn’t have a pick-up truck to haul it to the house, and instead, used the capacious trunk of his 1960 Rambler Classic to get it to the woodshed near the house.

Out in the big shed, Grandpa had an old couch where he liked to sneak a nap, and one day after filling and emptying the Rambler, he tossed me the keys and told me to “run that last load up to the house, but don’t let your Grandma catch you or we’ll both be in hot water.”

Well, I had watched him turn on the key, press the buttons marked “D” and “R,” and of course I knew how to steer a bicycle, so I had no trepidations about getting behind the wheel.

Off I went, in a nice straight line to the house, unloaded the wood, and carefully backed the car down the lane to the shed. And I was feeling mighty pleased with myself, until I looked up and saw Grandma running towards me, with her apron flapping in the breeze, hollering, “Victor! Why did you let her drive the car?”

Sheepishly, Grandpa arose from the couch and confessed that it was, indeed, his idea. Then he reminded Grandma that that’s how her uncle had taught her to drive; just gave her keys and let her go.

PHOTO: 1960 Rambler Classic.

Cory Farmhouse1
AUTHOR’S PHOTO CAPTION: My grandparents’ farm near Lacey, Washington. The Rambler is to the far right.

gail cory-betz1

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Gail Cory-Betz is a retired Registered Nurse who lives in rural Northeast Washington State. She is a community theatre actor, playwright, and Grandma who loves to share stories.

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.

Learning to Drive—Eventually
by Joan Leotta

In 1958, Ford’s designers
made my father smile
His favorite, auto, the T-Bird,
grew from two doors to four-
My mother argued against
such a pricey showy car, but
in 1961, a dove-white
Thunderbird nested
in our drive. Power windows,
sleek design. My father’s pride.
January 10, 1964 on my sweet
snowy 16
Daddy marched me
to the driveway.
He reversed our seating for this
occasion, my first driving lesson.
He talked me through
shifts, dials, horn
brakes, gas and mirrors.
Under his tutelage, my hands,
inserted key.
Following my father’s
calm, loving voice,
his pride and joy sprang to life.
Snow drifted through the air
as I backed out
onto the street.
I sat at the wheel,
my father gently
issuing commands.
January’s snows had slicked
streets so we proceeded …
slowly. So far, so good
until we reached a narrow
side street. Snow-covered lumps
of parked cars
festooned each side.
My father directed me to turn
down the road. I stuck to the ruts
where other brave drivers
had blazed a path.
Half-way down,
a car approached from the other
“Go right!” my father barked.
My father, barking?
I hit the gas.
“No NO!”
T-Bird became a hawk
swerving oh so close to
those snowy side
lumps of car.
Take your foot off…”
I hit the brake. Car fishtailed,
narrowly avoiding those parked
Side sentinels. Approaching
car slowed, then stopped as well.
I leaned onto the steering wheel—
began to sob, “I don’t know what to do.”
My father was silent for a moment, then,
he opened his door, walked around
to driver’s side and motioned
for me to take passenger seat.
He expertly extricated us
from that snowy hell. I don’t remember how
but do recall there was no contact with
approaching or parked vehicles.
Five years later,
on a mid-summer day, I finally
took my driver’s license test.
Passed on first try—but not in my father’s car.

IMAGE: Detail from ad for 1961 Ford Thunderbird.


NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: My dear Daddy had one passion outside of his love of family—his cars. Over the years he treasured several vehicles, his Audi, his gleaming two-tone Oldsmobile, but the vehicle of his dreams, the favorite of favorites was that Thunderbird. I can only say it was a mark of his even greater love for me, his little princess, that he even considered teaching me how to drive in that car. It did not end well, the lesson that is, but years later we both… well at least I was able to laugh about it.

AUTHOR’S PHOTO CAPTION: My dad and me, with me dressed as a princess.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Joan Leotta lives in Calabash, North Carolina. She grew up in Pittsburgh Pennsylvania, where she learned to play with words on the page and onstage from an early age. Her first picture book WHOOSH! is also a snapshot of an afternoon with her father, but since no cars are involved, the tone of the day is much different! You can follow her blog on Birth of a Book at