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
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 place we pass has a story.
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.
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.
It’s summer and my father drives, cuts the engine, and as we are flying
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
all summer, every summer
into the wild blue yonder, into the sun.