A Selection from Clown Car


The harvest moon rises
over wheat stubble
that seems to undulate
away forever
mown all the same
ground hard and dry

and my father smells faintly
of whiskey and cigarettes
as he eases out into the field
that scours the Ford's underside

pulls the car to a stop
kills the headlights
leaves it running
gets out and says slide over
son it's time you got
your first driving lesson

so I get behind the wheel
and he points out the controls
which are not much
the Ford is brand-new automatic

and the back seat full of
my younger brothers and sisters
is quiet as I let the brake off

and say where should I go
he says just drive around
and get the feel of it
that's the beauty of the thing
there's nothing out here
to run into anyhow
you could even shut your eyes

then he leans back smiling
as I begin with lazy esses
and work into figure eights
crisscrossing our faint tracks
and as my courage mounts
and the back seat starts to giggle
through the dips and lurches
roar flat out and double back

slewing and rocketing
through the hard corners
hitting invisible wheel ruts
that send us bouncing
against the ceiling

all over flying sky-high
like clowns in an airplane
by the gauges' green light
under a moon so bright
the planet awake is all one
endless silver runway
without directions or stopsigns
only this cricket-drowning roar
only this slight blind brush
with disaster beneath us
only this shaking and laughing
rush through the cooling air

          -- Paul Hunter

1999 Nelson Bentley Award Winner