Red Pick-Up Truck

Daddy stood sticks
In the corners of the bed
And tied on a tarp
To keep the worst of the sun off us.

He laid down blue moving pads
And lifted us little girls
With our frayed cotton dresses
And brown, bony knees
Into the bed with coloring books
And a few plastic toys.

We drove up and down
That enormous stack of states
Smack in the middle of our country:
Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas,
Nebraska, South Dakota, North Dakota.

He was looking for work, any work,
He was desperate.  One time
At this big truck stop near Tulsa
He was walking around the pump island
With a gas can, panhandling,
Begging people to put a squirt of gas in the can,
And a lady spit on him.
He came back to the truck and cried.

About a month later in Abilene
I think he sold my sister.
She was awfully pretty
And one morning she was just gone.
That day we ate at a pizza buffet
And afterward the truck was full of gas
And the air conditioner was working.
I slept twelve hours in the cab.

The next week Dad got on
At Circle-K in Kimbal, Nebraska
And things started to get better
But real, real slowly.

First, Dad got me in middle school,
Then it was tires for the truck
And then he got his teeth fixed.
They hurt him so bad
I don’t think he’d slept through a night
In five or six years.

I got a fake ID for my age
And a job part-time as a cashier.

Dad found weekend work on a ranch.

We bought a house, tiny,
But it had a real kitchen and bathroom.
We got a table and chairs at a yard sale
Beds at Goodwill, and a television
From a pawnshop in Cheyenne.

My boss gave me a dog
And I learned that every trait
We work toward as a person
Comes natural to a dog.

Over the next couple of years
We got real bedding, a sofa,
Good plates and glasses
Drapes, rugs, and towels.

I’m the assistant manager now,
I’m finishing junior college
And I think all the time
About what I couldn’t before:
What happened to my sister?

I want to talk to Dad about it
But he’s over fifty now
And he’s got the dementia.
He disremembers that I have a sister,
Or he’s lying,
I can’t really tell.

I try to imagine her all glamorous
In a big house with lots of children
But the picture won’t come clear,
I guess my mind knows it’s not likely.

I talk to her in my head all the time
And the thing I say most is,
“I’m ok, I’m doing all right,
And I so hope you are too.
I hope to god.”

JUNE 2017

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