Red Cadillac
Anthony Adrian Pino

     to the memory of Jeannie Parlato O'Neill

There was a calling came out of the south
and out of Kansas City, Philadelphia and Boston,
out of the big sprawling cities and ailing, unpainted houses
the abandoned brick-faced factories,
and those hot, lively, jumping churches.

The call went out over littered rail track beds,
and through the drifting, high-rising clouds, the plumes of the mid-west,
over country roads quilting Oklahoma and stitching up Texas,
arid endless deserts, ax-hard, baked and cracked,
and the sharp-edged granite and soft, soaring alpine trees of western Nevada;

and down it came, falling cherry-sweet on California,
cherry-sweet on its country towns sleeping on the edges of earthly abundance,
towns by the wheat, the lettuce, corn and thick-armed orchards where we kids lived,
braggin' and singin', growin' up, gettin' big, cuttin' through secret fields,
and talkin' big of hot rods, hidden loves, high schools, ball games and girls.

And there, in the fields and orchards of our valleys, the soft earth of our youth,
we heard the call of the too-sweet music crackling on tired radios,
young and fresh voices in a stale, rigid world,
music sung by the blackest of angels, boys of carefully pomaded hair,
slick Sunday suits and big smiles, the Doo-Wop singers who sang for us
and fell hard for those hucksters with the small checks,
big needles and bad business deals; those kids always in their Cadillacs—
a love of flash which I never fully fathomed,
but come to grasp fifty years later, when a secret dollop of cherry
lodged for years in the back of my throat suddenly broke open,
spilling its sweetness in my mouth, lifting my head
and giving me enlightenment:
it was then I beheld the truth.

And now I understand the red Cadillac,
understand the hunger for the beatific and early arrival of a great
burnished car
the need for dark sunglasses for the overload of light
the cashmere suits for the tenderness of feeling not found in others.
Now I understand about singing the sacred,
the hard, hungry longing for angelic love,
and the dirt-low humiliation of not having her
that girl, that girl, that girl with the name oracular,
and having only to make and re-make her song:

"Gloria, Gloria, Gloria
She doesn't love me,
No, she doesn't love me."

It all comes to me now that many of you were called
but most were frozen—iced on the blistering, killing white.

Now listen to me, Cadillac boys,
I'm getting old, so look for me soon, will you?
You'll laugh to see me comin' through the clouds.
I'll wear a red sequined jacket
and drive up in a green Pontiac, top down,
"Sh-Boom" on the license plate.

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