THE NEW USED CAR by Dave Newman


My father pokes around the rear brakes
of our rusted-out Cutlass Oldsmobile
          with needle nose plyers
          until a spring snaps
          and the plyers shoot
          back like a dart flying
          away from a target
          but looking for
          a new target
and my dad screams and tips back onto his ass.

“You’re going to have to drive me to the doctor”
he says, touching his face with a bag of frozen peas.

His eye looks like a sunset painted by an artist
in love with purples and yellows and blood.

He says “Do you hear me?” getting angry.

“I’m only 10” I say

and he hands me the keys to the other
car, the one that’s a dozen years old
          but with working brakes.


Dave Newman is the author of seven books, including the novel East Pittsburgh Downlow (J.New Books, 2019) and The Same Dead Songs: a memoir of working-class addictions (J.New Books, 2023). He lives in Trafford, PA, the last town in the Electric Valley, with his wife, the writer Lori Jakiela, and their two children. He spent the last decade working in medical research at the VA in Pittsburgh and currently teaches writing.

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