Besides those sad tales of hardship – the ones
about covered wagons with busted wheels,
Indian wars, short grass prairies and dry wells–
most Texas stories involve beer and broken cars.
Standing two inches shy of five feet, my
grandmother Pixie wore horned-rim glasses,
kept her hair trimmed just over her ears
like it had been cut by fairies in a hurry.
Once, half-way home from Dumas about ninety miles
north of nowhere, Great Grandaddy’s beloved
banana yellow Chevy Impala overheated,
stranding us on the iron skillet highway.
There we were: the shimmering asphalt mirages,
me and my sister sticking to the beige vinyl,
panting cows behind barbed wire,
a zillion grasshoppers, Pixie,
and a six-pack of Coors tall cans.
After an hour or so of waiting for help to arrive,
Pixie cracked a warm beer:
Well, cain’t hurt!
The whole time I’m thinking about serial killers–
I’d read about the Town That Dreaded Sundown–
or an eighteen-wheeler with bad brakes
or maybe never getting back to the ranch at all.
Had I known what courage it had taken to
weather the dust storms, with everything dying,
and that Great Plains sun blotted out,
how it filled their mouths, covered their blankets,
I might have worried less about
one poor Impala that couldn’t run.