Phil Roeder CC
Car ferry Keokuk Iowa 1987
Tom, I’m sorry that I stole your car. It was a manual transmission.
I never drove a manual transmission before. You made it look easy.
When I tried to drive off the car lurched forward into a red buick.
Trying again I smashed backwards into a grey Toyota. Before I
unlaced the clutch I went through this a few times. A couple of desperate
miles down the road a cabbie stopped in the intersection. He got out
and started waving his hand above his head like he was washing a huge
window. My only thought was “How does he know?” As I floated past
he yelled, “Turn on your lights!”
Tom, I’m glad you took me fishing for Brook Trout in River Falls where
You tried to get me into that halfway house. Thanks for taking me to the
symphony with your girlfriend. In my story she doesn’t have a name. I
remember her apartment where the two of you cooked dinners for me. I
remember there was a small window in the kitchen by the sink. She had
Dill, Cilantro and Tarragon, Rosemary, Sage, Parsley and Mint. I can
smell them still. You were both so kind. I remember you took me To see
The Man Who Fell To Earth.
The day I met you I remember Standing in a living room on St. Paul’s
lower East side talking on the phone to a guy named Jim M.-(2) In a
treatment group when there are two Jim M’s one of you have to be Jim M.-(2)
He agreed to pick me up and take me to a meeting. He only smoked a
quarter of each cigarette before he put it out and started a new one. A
lawyer then. Now a card player. Working it out with his wife or he would
have helped me out himself. Took me to get something to eat and gave me
a couple bucks. After the meeting he introduced me to you. You agreed to
put me up for a while since your roommate was in Israel. I could sleep in
his room.I remember reading Isaac Bashevis Singer and sleeping in clean
sheets. 18. One day clean.
Tom, I’m sorry your girlfriend only lived a couple blocks from you. After
dragging me around for two weeks you decided to walk over and spend
the night at her place. I’m sorry you left your keys, your wallet and your
checkbook. I can tell you which of the boards in your floor creaks when
you pace a great circle through the apartment, on repeat. It felt inevitable.
At the time. Now it just feels weak. Indecent. Inhuman. Heartbreaking.
Fourteen Days Clean.
hands arranged at ten and two, both legs moving, palmy with sweat,
greasy with nervous, sleepless guilt, flying this craft like the great king
from Palenque. The farmers daughter works at KFC. she waits for me
Somewhere in Iowa. Through the purposeful fields infested with
foxes, I’m anxious for an all-points bulletin, having watched too much TV
and read far too little Isaac Bashevis Singer. I almost fell over like a potato
bug going around a corner. Fingers swollen from squeezing out the miles.
I feel I left them in the car still holding the wheel. I wrote a few bad checks
to buy gas, Doritos and cans of sardines. I sold my sisters radio for gas.
I sold a stack of Baseball cards that deserve their own headstone. I spent
four days high on night, morning, and the shadows in-between. Mississippi
river bridges washed over blue lines. There was a ferry somewhere after
Keokuk Iowa into Illinois or Missouri on my way toward Louisville. Back
and forth on small roads like a drunk fly on a map of America.
Fox in the corn
More fox in the corn
Another fox in the corn
Always another fox in the corn
Forgive us our trespasses.
No one tried to teach me more about forgiveness than the man in Kentucky.
Later he used to take groups of troubled teens into the wilderness in Michigan.
I would call every three or four years. Get one or the other.
The last time I called Terri told me that Kevin had passed the previous year. She added,
“But he would have loved to hear from you.”
Tom, would you have loved to hear from me? Not everybody does. Kevin
talked me into turning myself in. I called you from Kentucky. Sorry I stole
your car. A guy from the Federal Bureau of Investigation came to take me
in. State lines, bad checks, etc. I think they sent your car back. I got a ten-year
stayed sentence, court ordered to my third treatment. Kevin told me that
you asked the judge to go easy on me. I played a lot of chess and talked a
bunch of nothing with patient old men made mostly of coffee. Eventually
I got on a bus and vanished. Today I started reading Isaac Bashevis Singer.
13 years Sober.
Tim Moder is member of Lake Superior Writers and The Bad River Band of Lake Superior Chippewa. He is a father and a grandfather. His poems have appeared in The Sinking City Review, The Coachella Review, Paddler Press, South Florida Poetry Journal, and others. His first chapbook All True Heavens was out with Alien Buddha Press in 2022. timmoder.com
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