Wild Blue Yonder

on
Somewhere in California in the Bus

This poem was written in 2002 for Dr. Elaine Osio’s Creative Writing class at Cal State LA–I am sharing it here for our Poetry Event in 2021 with Mike the Poet! And My Literary LA class, and all my first year students.

Wild Blue Yonder–for my father and his Bus

My Father, B.G. Hicks
Me, with the Bus at the bottom of the stairs in the days of this poem

It’s summer and my dad

Is taking me on a trip

He drives his bus like he’s

Flying a plane

Telling me everything

Every story

Every place we pass has a story.

My father and his Bus, Mt. Ashland, Oregon 1970 something

It’s summertime and the

Backs of my legs are sticking to the vinyl seat

The world rushes by and

The wind fills the car—hot, dry, scorched.

My father tells me that the shimmering

Water on the highway

Is really heat waves,

And he says “Kiddo,”

Drinking from his old green thermos

(which smells like sour milk and ancient tea)

smoking his long, dainty cigarettes,

telling me about that town, there,

in the valley

past the dry lakebed (from the glaciers, the ice age, the dinosaurs)

it was a mining town till the

lumber company came

now there’s no one left.

Me, sleeping in the Bus, sticking to the seats

It’s summer and the old red bus

And I, and my father

Are driving into the long California summer valley.

My father says he grew up

In these fields.

He says laying irrigation line was

“Hotter than hell,”

made him want to move away.

He planned his escape

On his back

Under the dusty vines, grapes hanging

So full of promise.

He planned the army, Berkeley, away.

Anywhere but on his back;

Anywhere but this valley.

He tells me that this valley was once full water, that it was an ocean, that it will be, again.

My father, cooking in the lower Sierras, mid 90’s.

It’s summer and my father drives, cuts the engine, and as we are flying

He sings

His three songs:
“When Irish Eyes Are Smiling”

“It’s a Long Way to Tipperary”

“Off We Go, Into the Wild Blue Yonder”

He teaches me to pass the beer under the dashboard, or better yet, pour it

Into the green thermos cup.

We sing our song

“Beer on the floorboards, No Good!”

We never crash, just roll up

And down the California hills and

Into the rice paddies, past the brown marsh river (stopping by cool banks to eat lunches from delicatessens, food I’ve never had, never will have again), roll on into the town

White pink white pink white pink flash the oleanders dividing the highway

My father and I

Driving

all summer, every summer

into the wild blue yonder, into the sun.

We are still driving the Bus.
Now the Bus drives on the freeways of LA.
I am all grown up now, but when I am in the Bus I still feel safe, and I thank my father for all he has done and continues to do to guide me on my journey.
Congratulations to all the Cal State LA graduates from 2020 and 2021, and for my students this year who will graduate in the future!

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