Driving with Grandpa
By Kelly Burdick
October 15, 2022
October 15, 2022
Whenever I pass an old barn
with windful windows
and slanting slats askew,
his ghost sits in the passenger seat,
skin all but translucent
in the golden hour sun.
I think of his paintings,
300 of them stacked
in his Cold War-era fallout shelter:
the basement of the house he designed himself.
I wonder who lives there now.
Those paintings, rotated seasonally,
were trees and oceans, windmills and flowers,
snow and sand and trucks and trains,
shirtless grandchildren playing baby grands,
cats now gone, ships and sunsets,
and, of course, dilapidated barns.
I heard stories of his driving,
although I never experienced it myself.
On steep hills of empty highway
he’d remove the keys from the ignition,
dangle them in the air, and cackle like a fox.
Cars aren’t built that way anymore
and this highway isn’t empty,
so instead I point out the paint-stripped barn
set perfectly into the curve of the road,
white dandelions nodding in the field.
“That’s your house” I say, then turn
my finger toward an idyllic cabin glowing
with sun, three stories tall, surrounded by trees,
a five-minute walk to the Pend Orielle River
and say “That’s my house.”
He doesn’t say anything
(I don’t remember his voice,
and besides, he’s never played
“that’s your house”)
but I know he likes the barn,
decrepit though it is.
He likes seeing me drive.
I wonder if he ever drove this road,
if this very barn, ramshackle even then,
ever raced past his eyes and onto canvas.
But instead, I ask if he needs any paint.
Kelly Burdick is a poet, artist, and librarian living in a tiny town in the Inland Northwest. Their writing has appeared in Eclectica, Segullah, Inscape, and elsewhere. They are an editor of the chicken-centric art and poetry zine COOP: chickens of our poetry. You can find more of their work at kellyerin.com.