Nebraska Center for Writers

THE FEAR OF STEPPING ON SMALL CARS
by Donal Heffernan

Seasons slipped by after the roars stopped
                    from their engines
Now grown to adults, their small cars
                    silent and dusty
Were stored, garaged in boxes, then offered
                    without warranty or service
Spread to the next generation of tiny drivers
                    to sweetly purr, once again
With mouth engines, pursuing space-aged
                             adventures
                             speeding to wondrous places
As we served our new adults, one by one
                             their big cars, then
There were no little cars,

Until seasons later one reappeared on the floor
                    a survivor, green, still shiny
On a Saturday morning, I nearly stepped on its roof
                    while the grandchild slept,
                                     the car
Stared up at me, between our bed and the bath.
                    Then more were sighted,
Sightings that shot back my old fear
                    with increasing speed
Of that dread sound, the crunch underfoot
                             in the dark, then
Submitting my plea, not guilty, in the morning
                    to a wee judge large with tears
In my losing case of the squashed dream car
                    illegally parked, of course
But clearly, and rightfully on its way to somewhere.

Reprinted with permission
from Artword Quarterly and Fan Magazine
Copyright © 2000
by Donal Heffernan


ANCESTORS ON HILLSIDES
by Donal Heffernan


Ryan, O'Brien, McCarthy
Sullivan, Kelly and McGonigal
Crosby and O'Halloran,
Then up the cemetery road a bit
Leahy and Gallagher.

We are swept
By a ritual flood
Like a stick, tossed along,
Pulled to ancestral currents
Snagged near family markers
And forced to grab for life-rings:
Our hopes for our future.

And in this stream
Bedded with empty shells, our breathing
Seems no license to us at all
As bosses here.

We accept our ancestors
Lying below us,
In this theater as cast
Never conceding our own roles
Protesting of course
Well, we are still in rehearsal, thank you.

Nora age four
Michael killed in war
Nell in childbirth
Daniel by a thief
Kathleen,
James, my father
Grandfather Michael
The senator, Cornelius
Vic and Bart, priests
And aunts, all five, Crosbys,
Grandmother Sarah, I never saw.

Memories float
As inside videos,
We offer flowers,
But retain our fear, doubts
Knowing the great clock
Will again repaint
These daisies.

With darting glances
From time to time
We check the rusty cemetery gates
Guarding the road back
As if to see, perhaps
On a shelf, just outside its ancient frame,
Our resting dreams;
Anxious we are to return, and
Escape this whirlpool,
This glutton of time place
Like a boxer forced to his corner
In the final round.

Ancestors on hillsides
Kelly, McGonigle, Crosby and O'Halloran
And down the sidehill's winding lane a bit,
Leahy, Heffernan and McGovern.

Reprinted with permission
from Paintbrush
Copyright © 2001
by Donal Heffernan


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