Gasoline - Poem by Nancy Cherry
In the years before unleaded, when everything
ran smooth as asphalt,
my father sold gasoline wholesale—
stored barrels that accumulated
a thick pitch of years as the platform planks
darkened with creosote—
a smell that walked in
on my father’s boots, the big boots
with rawhide laces and the smell
came into the house
like soot from an old fire.
In the summer, my sister and I played
in the fumes of 40 weight and 30,
scent of Zerolene, Ethyl and Supreme,
valve oil, pearl oil, tractor roller grease.
All summer, the smell of gasoline
where grasshoppers clattered in the fields,
where cattle rubbed against barbed wire
leaving tufts of brown hide,
and the trains rattled by.
Twice a day, we stood with our fingers
laced in chain link, waiting
to catch the afternoon run
from Suisun City
when the engineers had to wave
and the caboose was always red
with a coating of oil
my father touched.
At night, I’d hear the brakes
squeak in the driveway,
see the light inside the truck
come on, go out.
My father went to work at sunup
and came home tracking in the dark.
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