New Poetry Project 2021: Poem 2 - "Pilot of the Airwaves"

Pilot of the Airwaves 

Hidden in the back of the vanity, a letter never sent, or maybe returned, tucked inside the paper sleeve of a 45rpm from 40 years ago. A song I hadn’t heard or thought about since 1979 when I mistook Charlie Dore for Juice Newton or – sacrilege – Joni Mitchell. 

It’s the farewell soundtrack to a lover given up the year before in the heat of reconciliation. Blue ink in my mother’s delicate cursive: “Remember how much we loved this song? I miss listening to it with you.” I imagine my mother and her lover tuned in to AM gold, diddling in the Food Giant parking lot or necking behind Majik Market where they thought no one would see them. Everyone saw. There were anonymous phone calls, warnings in the mailbox, sidelong glances in the hardware store. My father remained stone-faced and stoic for reasons I couldn’t fathom. 

Until one morning, driving me to school, the CB radio in his Plymouth crackled to life with a honeyed voice. “Plumber Man, you got your ears on? This is Ruby Blue, come back.” She was in need of his services, something about a leak he’d fixed before, and the grin that spread across my dad’s face was a revelation. They talked in lingo and numbers – 10s, 20s and 88s – I didn’t understand, but it sounded flirty and familiar. Before I got out of the car she said, “Hey, this just came on the radio” and a tune punctuated by pops and static filled the car. 

Ooooh, you make the nighttime race 
Ooooh, I don't need to see your face 
You're sounding good... 

Sitting on the floor in my dead parents’ house this memory is suddenly 5 by 5 – loud and clear – as I use my phone to look up lyrics and trucker slang. On closer inspection, the handwriting isn’t my mother’s at all. Well, well, Daddy-O… This was a letter received and worthy of secreting away, perhaps the song played when no one was home. This poem is for the girl who didn’t sign her name. Whoever, wherever you are, Ruby Blue, thank you for making my dad smile and all those 88s – love and kisses.


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