Conversations with My Father Between Highway Billboards
My father cracks his knuckles against
the steering wheel while driving through
West Virginia mountains and leaves his boyhood
on the asphalt. In the passenger seat,
my father’s shadow spills over me, and
I uncover a boy steeped in a town that inhales
once every decade. A boy who discovered himself
more in the exit than the arrival. My father
tries to remember him by filling the empty spaces
of his vision with the edge of a mirror.
He sees me in the reflection.
Remembers how he didn’t know how to
hold me when I was born because he was afraid
my bones would shatter like the time his friend
threw a snowball through the chapel window
and he took the blame. When I ask my father
about regret, he presses his foot a bit further
on the gas pedal. Tells me about people
he never said goodbye to: A girl who wanted
more than she could give. Another who
collected escape routes until they filled her pockets
and veins with stardust. My father can’t forget
how he stumbled from one city to another
and tried to collect paper compasses
that left cuts across his hands. And I forgot
that objects in the mirror are closer than
they appear. I learn to count
my father’s scars by the number
of mile markers we pass. Maybe someday
the highway billboards will lead us homeward.
By Adriana Carter
Adriana Carter is a sophomore at Stanford University. Her poetry and prose have been recognized by the Alliance for Young Artists and Writers and the UK Poetry Society. Adriana is also currently the co-prose editor for the Leland Quarterly, a literary journal based at Stanford.