Archives for posts with tag: driving

1960 Valiant
1960 Valiant Station Wagon
by Sara Clancy

Aunt Lidie, you handled that thing
like Mr. Magoo and believe me when I say
that the patron saint of close calls was peeking
though her fingers when you made your famous
U-turn on the Falls Bridge at rush hour.

Who could bother with signals and brakes
when from the rear view, between maples lit
by fireflies and arched over the East River Drive
there were Morgan horses from Valley Green
keeping pace along a split rail fence

with the cartoon of your sensible car,
tank half full of City Service regular,
cruising in its cushion of good fortune,
decency and the pure dumb luck
of a protected pilot whale.

Grey with fins, red inside.

PHOTO: 1960 Valiant station wagon.

Me and Aunt Lidie 1959

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: I fondly remember the roller coaster thrill of driving with my Great Aunt Lidie into the city of Philadelphia. She was the second worst driver I’ve encountered in my 67 years.  (The worst, my father-in-law, was so terrifying that any poem would belong in a different series. Cheating Death, perhaps.)  Drives with Aunt Lidie were fun, though, and we were too young to sense any danger. Indeed, there were no catastrophes, only stories to laugh about for the next 60 years.

AUTHOR’S PHOTO CAPTION: Me, age four, with Aunt Lidie (Jenkintown, Pennsylvania, 1959). The car was the Valiant’s predecessor, which from all accounts she drove with equal madcap aplomb.

sara clancy 1

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Sara Clancy is a Philadelphia transplant to the Southwest. Her chapbook Ghost Logic won the 2017 Turtle Island Quarterly Editors Choice Award. Among other places, her poems have appeared in Off the CoastThe Linnet’s WingsCrab Creek ReviewThe Madison ReviewMisfit Magazine, Avatar Review, and Verse Wisconsin. She lives in the desert with her husband, their dog, two ordinary cats and a psychotic cross-eyed one.

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.

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
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.