Cleaning the Truck

by Alejandro Lemus-Gomez

For my nineteenth birthday
I’m going back to Miami to steal
my grandfather’s evergreen Ford Ranger.

Because he’s developing Alzheimer’s.
Because he’s had his license revoked
for drunk driving. Because the truck

has been sitting behind his house
for a year now. Because he’s sat
en la sala for a year now staring

at the window. When I lived in Miami,
my grandfather would pick me up
from elementary school.

No soy un santo, pero hago
lo que puedo, he would say handing me
a juice box and a zip-lock bag

of croquettes. He’d change the station
from Celia Cruz to 50 Cent
because he knew I liked hip-hop.

Now, the truck’s body is marred
with black mold and the sides
are scratched with yellow streaks

from grazing into wire fences.
Side mirrors shattered by his drunken foray
to buy lottery tickets at midnight.

From my parents’ house in Georgia
I call my grandmother to ask
if he would sign it over to me.

She says yes. Her arms are bruised
because grandpa got angry when his Beck’s
was replaced with Sprite. Abuelita says

they bought the truck for his birthday
with money saved from working in Aldi’s.
She stocked cards and he bagged.

They pick me up from the airport.
The next day, I sneak the old Ford
into a repair shop. The day after

he asks what happened to mi camión.
A week later, I leave grandma
and Miami. I’m not a saint,

but at least I’m cleaning the truck,
scraping off the mold, and calling
grandma to tell her it isn’t her fault.

ALEJANDRO LEMUS-GOMEZ was born in Miami, the son of Cuban exiles, and now lives in the rural Appalachian Mountains. The 2017 recipient of the Rhina P. Espaillat Award from West Chester University, he studies English and philosophy at Young Harris College in North Georgia. His poetry is forthcoming or has appeared in Reunion: The Dallas Review, the Indiana Review, and other journals.