David Stallings

Leaving Nashville, 1952


I’m packed between suitcases and boxes
into the back seat of a Buick Dynaflow. The view

blocked, the air thick with Dick’s Camels
and my mother’s Herbert Tareytons.

I try to filter my breath
with Kleenex—

the asthma isn’t fooled.
How will I make it all the way to Alaska?

On the way out of town, Dick swings into a gas station.
The trailer we’re towing slows us down,

and another car slips in front.
Asshole! my new stepfather roars, and grabs

for his .45 automatic in the glove box.
All I see is his arm

and my pleading mother’s grip
on his wrist.

I can barely breathe.


“Leaving Nashville, 1952” is reprinted from Boston Literary Magazine.

David Stallings was born in the U.S. South, raised in Alaska and Colorado before settling in Washington State. Once an academic geographer, he has spent many years promoting public transportation in the Puget Sound area. His poems have appeared in several North American and U.K. literary journals and anthologies.