Only the best poems capture the level of intensity and complexity that Robert Siek captures in this bittersweet remembrance of an imperfect father.
How to Install a Windshield
I pace in the driveway, and he smoothes sealant
on the inside edges of a windshield. He has to install it
in a Ford Explorer. The glass sits on a rack, shaped like legs
on a TV dinner table, the kind we could fold and hang on a stand
in the dining room. We had an extra set collecting dust in the basement.
I stare at his hands working, like I was eight again,
telling him it was time to eat. Half the time he had left the garage,
and his van had vanished. My mother always said she didn’t see him leave.
I look at his van and recall waiting in the back with my brother; our dog
in the passenger seat while Dad went in the racetrack to place bets.
I laugh under breath, remembering my mother
discussing my missing college funds, how my father
spent it all—nothing in the bank, better go to a state school.
Tuition to an out-of-state college was too expensive.
I wondered how I could buy a car when I turned seventeen.
She said I would get the money back. I never knew how much
of a nonexistent windshield, like tar moistening in the sun, oozing from cracks
in the street. He hands me gloves to wear
because he knows I don’t like to get dirty,
especially so early in the morning.
This is why he never took me dirt-bike riding as a child.
Instead I saw every horror movie in the late ’70s, when I was four and five.
My mother wouldn’t go with him, but she didn’t care if he took me.
These films were better when I was seven; the fake blood stopped being scary.
I grab one side, and we lift the windshield together. I don’t mind helping out
since his heart attack three weeks earlier.
We carry the windshield to the SUV. He instructs me to prop the bottom
against the ledge by the wipers. It presses the sealant, sticking like dentures,
like men in hard hats Krazy-glued to girders. His voice rises,
and trying not to shout he tells me to watch my sleeve.
I notice it’s resting in the goo. I panic and move.
The windshield shifts out of place, and he yells, “Just drop it!”
I let go and realize it’s too far over. He runs to my side, and orders me
to push from the opposite end. We even it out. There are black smudges,
fingerprints, on both upper outside corners. He thanks me for helping,
and says, “Just get out of here.” I walk toward the house,
saying, “Go fuck yourself,” under my breath.
Editor’s Note: Robert Siek has published with us before. Check out his stunningly original “The Power of Peacocks.”
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