The speedometer trembles at one-twenty
but the Cadillac runs smooth, silent
as my father steers left-handed,
his right arm draped
over the top of the front seat.
I want to touch that blond-furred arm,
hold his fingers in my hand’s hollow.
My mother leans to the right,
stares out the front window at the black asphalt
unwinding into the desert’s lusterless gold.
She doesn’t look at him or at me
or at the fifth of whiskey
amber-stilled next to her left foot.
Out the window to the left
a mountain presses purple up up
until lead clouds block the ascension
and through that metallic gray
God shoots silver shafts just for me.
Give me the bottle, Edith,
he says to my mother.
I see the dip of her left shoulder,
hear the slap of the bottle against his hand.
Her gaze never leaves the ochre-scrubbed sand.
He tilts the Jim Beam –
the scorched yellow liquid flows into his mouth.
I hear him gulp and swallow,
I see his fingers tender-curled around the bottle’s neck.
In the mirror his crow’s feet gentle and his dishwater eyes
flash a moment’s burnished blue –
not for my mother not for me not for himself
not for the saffron sand or the purple mountain
but for the brown-gold whiskey.
Out the window –
still purple, the mountain –
and the white-gold slashing the stubborn gray,
not god-painted or angel-mounted –
a trick of the atmosphere,
a sleight of hand.