It was an era of the car chapel. Rosary hanging
from rear-view mirror / Saint Christopher medal,
complete with glove-compartment prayer book.
Magnetic Sacred Heart statue on the dashboard.
Mother was devout. I was fourteen. Life was cold.
She was fifty when she learned to drive,
after my father’s disease took him. A sorrowful
blessing. Jesus would show us the way / take care of us.
Her first car / a blue cracker-box / Renault.
it gave her new freedom. Saturday confession.
Sunday Mass. Weekdays reserved for work.
Dashboard Jesus kept his promise. He watched over us.
I was twenty-two, that night.
My son was eighteen months. Darkness and sleet partnered
to do their worst. She worked late / did not come home.
Phone ringing off the hook. It was the police / I knew.
Inebriated / he backed down the on-ramp / lights off.
He was unharmed. Twisted metal and blood-filled
highway. They pried my mother out. A long night
at the hospital. I learned to pray / I dared to hope.
Mom’s car accordioned / she survived. When finally
conscious, she said “go to the car.” The ravage
was complete. Floating upon water and blood was a
plastic box / tiny baby moccasins / there where she said.
On the dashboard stood that statue / staring down at me.
I can never forget that day. After months of surgeries,
my mother recovered. My son wore the moccasins.
I began to understand her devotion. I shed my disbelief
like skin. Dashboard Jesus Saves!
“Dashboard Jesus” first appeared in Black Moon Magazine
Ann Christine Tabaka was nominated for the 2017 Pushcart Prize in Poetry. She is the winner of Spillwords Press 2020 Publication of the Year; her bio is featured in the “Who’s Who of Emerging Writers 2020 and 2021,” published by Sweetycat Press. She is the author of 15 poetry books and one collection of short stories. She lives in Delaware with her husband and four cats. Her most recent credits include poems in The Closed Eye Open, The World of Myth, and GloMag.
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