Beverly Finney reads her poem inspired by Malia Bryngelson’s painting at the June 18, 2016 Art of Poetry at Hickory Museum of Art. Photo courtesy of Roger and Ginny Sanford.
PAPA’S OLD CAR AND THAT WOMAN
after “In From the Outback” by Malia Bryngelson
Rumors of the other woman in his life
persisted in the family for years.
Not other women–the other woman.
He was not a philanderer.
Whatever part it played, she meant
something to him beyond sex
according to the letters found when
his boys cleaned out the old car
it was said he had bought for her.
At some point he parked it, still filled
with scattered bills, papers and those letters,
its finish grimy and rusting, tires rotting,
locked and abandoned until he was gone.
Someone said she came to his funeral
in a wide-brimmed red hat–
not a demure black one or navy–
slipped in and out before anyone
could speak to her, catch her name.
The mother of his children forgave him
one Sunday afternoon sitting on the arm
of his favorite chair, her arm on his shoulder.
I wonder if he thought about that the day
he keeled over in the watermelon patch.
Or if he was thinking about the woman
in the red hat who rode beside him
in the passenger seat of that car, her hair
ruffled by the breeze through the open
window, her hand resting warmly on his.
This is a poem I almost didn’t write, the last one I wrote before the submission deadline. Something…something vaguely spoke to me in that painting. As often happens, it needed time. In the end, to my surprise, it more or less wrote itself. You poets know what I mean.