Illustration by Kat Morgan

The football coach taught Driver’s Ed. He would hear a siren pass and say:
There goes another one. He meant me. I mowed down the rubber cones
as if they marched at me, an orange army invading from an orange planet.
My head snapped with every curb I hit, a speed bag for the fist I never saw.

I failed Driver’s Ed, F like father, F like Frank, my father’s name. My father
now would have to teach me how to drive. He said: I’d like to mount a cannon
on the hood of my car, swivel it around, and blast all the bad drivers off the road.
He meant me. So I learned to drive, one eye on the quaking of his chin, the cords
in his neck, waiting for him to shred my learner’s permit so it fluttered in my face.

A taxi dropped him off one morning. You have to drive me back to the city,
he said. I lost my car. At the age of five or so, I lost my turtle under the bed.
My father found the creature, crawling on his fingertips, still trying to escape.
JFK was president in 1962, but my father was the finder of lost turtles.

I tucked my learner’s permit in my shirt pocket and drove him to the city.
I read the stubble on his chin. My father, who silenced the room whenever he
spoke, said nothing, years before the AA meeting where he stood up and said:
Hello, my name is Frank. We drove around the same block three times before
I said: There it is. Someone tore the cannon off the hood. That’s why we missed it.

Martín Espada

Martín Espada was born in Brooklyn, New York. He has published more than twenty books as a poet, editor, essayist, and translator. His forthcoming book of poems from Norton is called Floaters. Other books of poems include Vivas to Those Who Have Failed (2016),  The Trouble Ball (2011), The Republic of Poetry (2006), Alabanza (2003), A Mayan Astronomer in Hell's Kitchen (2000), Imagine the Angels of Bread (1996), and City of Coughing and Dead Radiators (1993). He is the editor of What Saves Us: Poems of Empathy and Outrage in the Age of Trump (2019). He has received the Ruth Lilly Poetry Prize, the Shelley Memorial Award, the Robert Creeley Award, the National Hispanic Cultural Center Literary Award, an American Book Award, an Academy of American Poets Fellowship, the PEN/Revson Fellowship and a Guggenheim Fellowship. The Republic of Poetry was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize. His book of essays and poems, Zapata's Disciple: Essays (1998), was banned in Tucson as part of the Mexican-American Studies Program outlawed by the state of Arizona, and reissued by Northwestern. A former tenant lawyer, Espada is a professor of English at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst.