It was a rare day of glory,
Dad high on sunshine instead of Schlitz Malt Liquor,
so giddy for some reason that he
nearly skipped through the aisles at 2 Swabbies.
When he told me to pick something out for myself,
I believed it a trick and looked the shelves over
to see who might be watching,
waiting to bust a gut with laughter.
But he was serious. He meant it!
Dad who never bought me anything but meals
because we were what people called White Trash
and because that’s all he could afford.
When I picked a pair of Levis off a stack asking, “Are these okay?”
he tousled my hair with his grease-stained bear paw,
checked the price tag, and said, “Sure thing, Flower Child.”
But the pair I’d chosen weren’t the right ones,
weren’t Shrink-To-Fit, the style all the other kids wore.
These jeans stayed black-blue and stiff as shingles.
Wearing them at the bus stop the next day,
Dad drove by in his white Caddie,
cigarette smoke climbing the car windows
like dragon claws made of fog.
If he was looking my way or even knew it was me,
I couldn’t tell.
When Steve Pittman asked,
“Ain’t that your Dad?”
I stared at a rusted beer can blinking sunray code
in the pile of detritus behind us.
When he asked again, I stared some more
and breathed through my nose
until the bus pulled up and I got on,
taking the first empty seat available.