Friday, July 28, 2017

Summers with My Father by Aden Thomas

He told my mother
he brought me along
so I would want to stay
in school, get a degree,
the first in the family
to go to college.
But we both knew
I saved him labor.

We packed and loaded everything
for people,
their furniture, their beds,
their boxes filled with dishes,
their washers and dryers,
their pianos and and televisions,
into the moving van,
which wasn’t a van at all
but an empty tractor-trailer.

From 5am to twilight
we worked in the heat,
so tired by the end,
the salt
of our sweat
stuck to our skin.
Our muscles, seared
by the sun,
the humidity and heat,
burned slow into the night.

No shower, just a buffet
at a truck stop in the dark
and a sleeping bag
for a bed.
My bones were so exhausted
I’d fall asleep
in my clothes and wake up
past midnight
bathed in sweat again.

Sometimes in the morning
all the illegals
would gather on the sidewalk
outside the truck stop
and my father would speak
his broken Spanish to them,
hire one or two
to help us load the truck full.

I would spend the day
trying to outwork them.
Maybe their motivation was
a better life
or sending money back home,
I didn’t know,
but mine was trying to prove myself
to him, prove
I knew what it was,
the real work
of men.

It had to be impossible
that he’d done it
for twenty-five years,
all the neighborhoods
in all the cities,
all the truck stops,
on all the lonely highways,
the nerves in his feet
crushed under all
the weight of heavy lifting,
the months and years
away from his family,

One night, late into
the summer,
both of us sitting in the cab
near the end of our time
together, right before
I was set to go off
to school,
both of us listening
to the radio,
he said, son,
you worked hard,

and that was how
I knew.

Aden Thomas grew up on the high plains of central Wyoming.  His work has appeared in the The Blue Mountain Review and The Skylark Review. A collection of his published poems, What Those Light Years Carry, is now available through Kelsay Books.

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