Grandfather picked me up
each morning at seven a.m.
His car was filled with smoke. I choked.
A Marlboro protruded from his lips
like a chipped white oar,
then more butts soon held
between two crooked fingers
as he gripped the steering wheel hard
and slowly maneuvered
the old black Ford Falcon
up Anstice Street in Oyster Bay.
His smoke mixed with grey exhaust fumes
from the car and it wasn't far
before I'd have to crack the window
as we drove past Saint Dominic's chapel,
and further up the hill: still the fumes poked
through rusted holes in the car's frame, a toxic inhale,
contracting my brain as grandfather spoke
of his plans for the day; food shopping at the A&P,
TV dinners for the week, a new issue
of National Geographic to peruse.
He muses still over how he looks forward
to a ride to Bayville and a hamburger, well done,
with slice of raw onion at the Pig 'n Whistle.
Then always more smokes, many more in fresh air,
on days at the beach, orange embers blending
with the skyline at sunset, or in the rain
with humid billows surrounding us. He puffs,
then takes swig from his brandy flask,
enough to ease pain in his back, to pick up
some of life's slack, to begin again where,
atmosphere clear, only ashes remain.
by Mary Ryan Garcia
Mary Ryan Garcia is a freelance journalist, poet, and adjunct professor of English at Suffolk Community College in Selden, NY, who is currently earning an MSW at Fordham University in Manhattan. She offers thanks to poet George Held, who helped her to revise this poem.