His son is fourteen,
no longer a boy
and not yet a man.
He does not know what he wants to be,
he knows only that he no longer wants to study,
knows only that he feels restless, bored, fed-up with his place.
He quits school and leaves his mother’s house in town
In order to live with his father who is a foreman on a ranch.
He yells, hoots, hollers, laughs when he is on horseback herding the cattle around.
He smiles when he is in the ranch pickup with his father behind the wheel.
While the father and the son drive into town on an errand,
the father notices how his son stares admirably at the side of his face.
He grits his teeth and tries to smile back,
grips the wheel with forty-five-year-old arthritic hands,
the pain in his left leg (an old injury from falling off a horse) unbearable
every time he steps on the clutch.
He uses a special seat cushion because of his bad back,
and his left eye gums up sometimes,
so he keeps a hankie in his pocket to wipe out the snot.
The father is happy his son chose to come live with him,
happy his son is not out on the streets taking drugs,
breaking in homes, stealing cars.
They drive together, running an errand for the Don
while the Don sits in the comfort of his air-conditioned office.
The day is hot and the sun reflects menacingly off the highway.
The only sound is the rubber hissing on the pavement.
*Poem first published in Red Dashboard, and later appeared in the book The Salty River Bleeds, which was written by Stephen Page and published by Finishing Line Press #poetry #ecoRanching #Father #Dad