Old Blue Volvo by Mike Schneider

Twenty horses and a crank starter –
never made ’em better
than the Tin Lizzie

said Grandpa, a machinist
at the brass mill,
the Model T a shining image,
youth and freedom.
Henry Ford – two words jangling
in his pocket: Living wage.
Eight-hour day.

Dad loved the ’48 half-ton
he found for a few bucks,
gave it fresh plugs, a bumper, played
with the timing till it hummed.

Loved me too,
though he couldn’t say it.

With that rattly pickup showed me
manual transmission,
hands-on, sequenced
pattern of the letter H, metallic
industrial click
of gears shifting.

he’d shake his head
as that old truck bucked
and quivered to a dead stop.

Feel the free play in the pedal.
Let it out slow, then give it gas.

Soon, I was double-clutching
on the downshift
upgrade, taking raw joy
in the engine’s roar
and surge, pulling deep
into the furnace of itself
to charge uphill
like a young man
propelling himself into the world.

Now it’s my daughter, sixteen,
at the wheel.
Our old blue Volvo jumps.
The dashboard lights up red.
She groans.

I shake my head –
this strange voice
on my tongue.

Let it up till it grabs, then feather it.
Easy. That’s the way.

Mike Schneider received the 2012 Editors Award in Poetry from The Florida Review, and the 2016 Robert Phillips Prize (selected by Richard Foerster) from Texas Review Press, which in 2017 published his second chapbook, How Many Faces Do You Have? He has published many poems in literary journals, including New Ohio Review, Notre Dame Review, and Poetry. He lives in Pittsburgh.

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