Running on Empty

Running on Empty
by Robert Phillips

As a teenager I would drive Father’s
Chevrolet cross-county, given me

reluctantly: “Always keep the tank
half full, boy, half full, ya hear?”

The fuel gauge dipping, dipping
toward Empty, hitting Empty, then

—thrilling!—’way below Empty,
myself driving cross-county

mile after mile, faster and faster,
all night long, this crazy kid driving

the earth’s rolling surface,
against all laws, defying chemistry,

rules, and time, riding on nothing
but fumes, pushing luck harder

that anyone pushed before, the wind
screaming past like the Furies…

I stranded myself only once, a white
night with no gas station open, ninety miles

from nowhere. Panicked for a while,
at standstill, myself stalled.

At dawn the car and I both refilled. But,
Father, I am running on empty still.