Dickering

I know Daddy knows
what he’s doing.

Even when he’s quiet
he’s thinking.

The old man with tobacco
sitting in his jaw
like a tumor
is our enemy.

He would keep us from buying
the truck we need
that slopes
on the weedy ridge
of this junkyard.

Because I am too excited
Daddy has told me
to sit in our Ford
with the window down.

Daddy needs to dicker
and I don’t need
to get in the way.

“But what if a wass
flies in the window?”

I want to dicker too.
It won’t, says Daddy.

Besides, he knows I’m big enough
now to smash a wass
with my fist
if I need to.

The old man creaks
in a porch rocker, looking off. Daddy squats
on khaki haunches, whittling.
They sweat like I do
stuck here to this seat.

I lean and would listen
but find noises leaping
out of the high grass.

Daddy’s white shirt
grows with stains.

He’ll sweat seven minutes
by the dashboard clock
before calling it
a day.

The old man won’t sell
at a price
Daddy can afford.

Let the damn truck sit
and rust, Daddy says.
We’ll try again tomorrow.

Double clutching, Daddy yawns,
giving us barely enough time
to shift gears.

from Edward Francisco’s Death, Child, & Love: Poems 1980 – 2000

3 Comments

  1. I first encountered this poem, “Dickering” in Death, Child & Love. On the first page of the book is written, “For Lin with best wishes. Ed Francisco.” Before she died, my sister invited me to look through her extensive collection of poetry books and take what I wanted. Yours was one of the few I chose. When I read “Dickering” it always conjures up this foggy memory of your dad. Given the vagaries of memory, I have no idea if it is accurate, but it is mine and I’m keeping it:
    A short, compact man but fit, the guy who coaches little league baseball. Sandy hair squared away in a flattop above a squared-jawed face with a nose that maybe encountered a fist or two in his youth, eyes with a hint of mischief and a smile with a slight crook to it….


  2. Jimmy: Your recollection of my dad is spot-on. If you were to see a picture of him, you’d know how photographically accurate your memory is. As for his youth, my uncles tell of a rebellious teen who captured rattlesnakes for the local Holiness-Pentecostal church. Wild as he was, forty-four months in the Air Corps in Europe during WW 2 matured him considerably. He was stationed almost anywhere someone was likely to be killed. In particular, he was a crewman on a B-24 Liberator that flew the deadly Ploesti oil raids to destroy Nazi-held refineries in Romania. For his service in the war, he received the Silver Star, Bronze Star, and Distinguished Unit Medal. Given your career in the Air Force, I’d hoped you’d appreciate these details. By the way, I’m happy that you and I have rekindled our friendship after decade of traveling the world (literally and metaphorically.) It seems we Normal Park boys are a dwindling species. You’re an excellent writer and a fine, observant photographer. Delonda and I would love the opportunity to preview more of your work. Please stay in touch. All the best, Eddie

  3. Eddie: Thanks for confirming my image of your father, although I wasn’t going to give it up if I was wrong. One thing I’ve never been accused of is a photographic memory. Yes, I very much appreciate your Dad’s AF experience, and my time in the AF pales in comparison to his heroic service. I hope you will share more about your Dad, as I know little about the man behind the image. I too am glad we reconnected, especially as I look back at my Normal Park friends and see so much more now with my adult eyes than I did as a child.

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