Road Test by Liza McAlister Williams

Road Test

We drive slowly up a side street off Main
in your idyllic upstate college town
looking for parked cars to practice
parking on, you driving and me
admiring the scenery. Uphill, parallel
to the ridge, are all the mansions built
in bygone days when canals, like arteries,
brought the blood of commerce inland.

Now this town’s main import/export
is brainy kids the likes of you.
You’re good at everything you try except
parallel parking a car. No chance
in the city to learn, no chance in Paris
on your year abroad, none during
your internships at the DNA lab or
the literary agency. Now you want

to take your road test but you know you
stink at parking. You want me to tell you
how it’s done, give you the formula,
and I do, and you park and park
around the same three cars, the only
three cars on the street: backward,
forward, crunching over drifts of leaves
that answer the trees, orange to orange,

red to red like different languages.
Too close to the curb, too far, much
too close, a little too far, getting
frustrated, but maybe also getting it, finally:
“Now don’t say anything,” you say, and I don’t,
but I look sidelong at your resolute profile
and I feel I will never as long as I live
forget this flaming street and this moment.

by Liza McAlister Williams

Editor’s Note: Immediately after reading this poem, I mentally composed a note regarding how the regular stanza structure emphasizes the narrative (practice means doing the same thing over and over again), but then I noticed the poet had left me her own note at the end of the submission and I LOL’d instead–>

Poet’s Note: Although this poem is in free verse, I chose to organize it in regular stanzas, to suggest the practice-makes-perfect theme, and the underlying orderliness of learning a new skill, and to suggest metaphorical correspondences between memories and visual images.


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