Two Poems

Driving lessons

I’ll never be able to do this, I said, watching Kurt navigate
the left from Flagler onto Peninsula, palming the wheel
of his Dad’s Olds through a curve smooth as the small
of my back when he kissed me. You, he laughed, right
arm stretched behind me along the seatback, will be
a wonderful driver. The next day he dropped me the keys
as I stood obedient as a spaniel at the foot of the lifeguard tower.
Back it above the tideline. Wait for traffic, and then just take
your foot off the brake. Don’t get stuck.

Two years later, Mother taught me in the unfinished
parking lot of the new Publix Supermarket. She used
the Chevy wagon instead of the Fiesta. Might as well learn
to handle it now. It’s the main lesson I learned from her.
Dad taught me to sing, to read, celestial navigation.
Your Daddy, she said, is a terrible driver. He learned on
a farm. I took my father to work in Atlanta when I was twelve.
After a week or so of parking lots and the short streets
of the island, she handed me the keys to the stick shift.
Go to work. Take your brother, first. John drove, got out,
leaned in and said, Take the North Bridge, for heaven’s
sake. What’s the worst that can happen.

I taught my husband to drive. This is what he tells me,
but none of my memories of him in cars involve driving
lessons. We were eighteen. How could you forget that?
I recall parking in the Fiesta in broad daylight by the side
of Dune Circle, kissing for hours, and John’s insistent fist
banging on the back window of the Chevy at three in
the morning, Mikel and I stoned out of our minds. Get
dressed. Now. We told Mother we got stuck, couldn’t
leave the car. We were frightened of the rising tide.


they needed
was the mattress
on the floor
and stipples
of sunlight
texturing a
  New World:
       heart pine,
       flesh, flecks
       of salt
       in air.

—Kate Cumiskey, Edgewater, FL