“The last car I will ever buy,” you said,
and we laughed at this flimsy excuse
to spend on luxury, for once in our lives,
and drove ninety miles past winter-parched fields to Peoria
to be schooled in the new vehicle’s bells and whistles
pat the old car goodbye
and be handed key fobs we didn’t understand.
My father used to say such things—
the last suit I will ever buy,
the last big trip we will take,
my last lawnmower.
He had a PhD in lugubriousness.
On the way home, the winter sun sinking,
we stopped at a Cracker Barrel
and observed how much of the wall “art”--
boxy cardboard letter files, stoneware jugs,
stern ancestors discomfited in oval frames,
augers, potato mashers, rusty hand saws,
cast iron cookware, mantel clocks—
are still part of our daily lives,
and we noted the main demographic:
women in late middle age
eating with an aged parent
who was taking most of the meal home for later
and whose liver spots matched ours,
and I thought, maybe you were right about the car
just as my father turned out to be
right about everything. Suddenly timid,
we ordered one side instead of two with each meal
and shared a single order of cornbread.
Elaine Fowler Palencia lives in Champaign IL, where she is a member of the Glass Room Poets, a critique group. She has published four poetry chapbooks. The most recent one, How to Prepare Escargots (Main Street Rag Press, 2020), is made up of poems about writing. Her poetry and short fiction has received seven Pushcart Prize nominations and has most recently appeared in Rattle, Pine Mountain Sand & Gravel, Heartland Review, Appalachian Places, Sheila-na-Gig, and Red Branch Review. She is the book review editor of Pegasus, journal of the Kentucky State Poetry Society.
Image: Earth Shadow and Antitwilight [Belt of Venus] With Twilight Rays Converging After the Counterpoint of the Sun — after an image by Mr Busch, summer, 1884.