Spoiler alert: here is a poem that purports to describe a vision of heaven but ends up celebrating parental love. Actually, both are going on at once in this poem. The speaker recounts a dream envisioning heaven as a field which he is driving an old truck across. The truck is his grandfather’s: he’s the first parent to appear. Then the speaker is a child sitting on his father’s lap to pretend-drive across the field. But his father soon morphs into his father-in-law, who has started the truck up again. Finally, the dream over, the speaker wakes to hear his own children. So he can conclude with the moving realization that “heaven / has a field full / of fathers. I have been / there. I am one of them.”
Heaven is a field I am
driving an old truck across
in the only dream I have
on the subject. The sky over
that pasture is so blue I know
it will burst if it doesn’t turn
twenty different reds
at evening. The truck
is my granddad’s ’72 Ford, still smelling
of oilfield and aftershave. When it stalls
I get out and lift the hood but look
instead into the everlasting distance
dotted with cattle and streaked
with blotches where the henbit
has bruised the pasture purple.
I think of my father lifting
me onto his lap to let
me drive as we bumped over clumps
of gopher dirt in the pasture,
how I steered
wildly through the grass
his boot barely on the gas.
But it is my father-
in-law who is standing
next to me when I look,
who has bloodied his knuckles
starting the engine
running again, who is gesturing
with a patience he rarely had
in life for me to get back
into the truck and drive on.
I wake to hear our children breathe their sleep
one room over, and to tell you, love
of all my lifetime, as we lie beneath
our ceiling in the middle
of our bed, that heaven
has a field full
of fathers. I have been
there. I am one of them.
The Image archive is supported in part by an award from the National Endowment for the Arts.