by Gregory Pardlo
My pop let me steer when I was small
enough to snug between his belly and the wheel.
Any random intersection, he might hoist
me across the hand brake onto his lap to pilot
the carnival ride until he’d put me in my place
to stay until my arms were useful enough to
steer while he lit a smoke or shed his jacket.
Sun set over the Turnpike like a burst capillary.
In time, I learned to boss the road alone.
He texted days before he died,
to say that when a Roman general conquered
someplace cool, Caesar would send a slave
to ride beside him in the victory parade,
and tell the general to “remember you are
only a man.”
His ashes arrived in a cardboard carton with
shipping labels and barcode, heavy enough
to trigger the seat belt alarm as we clipped home,
honeysuckle in the air, from the post office.
Any normal person would have put the box
on the floor, but I—you know already, don’t you?
I held him in my lap. “You’re mine,” I told
the box of dad dust, lifting my hands occasionally
to the wind, tempting the evening with our
contraption of flesh and steel.