Harm's Way • David-Matthew Barnes

Your father puffed too much PCP but he promised
to take you to the Great Pumpkin at the refinery
in Torrance where they painted the Union 76
oil tank with a black smile every October.

When he passed out behind the wheel,
the car slid over black gravel, heart-stopped
in the middle of the midnight field. Off
in the distance, the factory glowed orange.

It was too far to reach, so you cried for help,
shook his body, smashed your youth. Climbing
into his lap, you stretched your seven-year-old
foot to the metal and floored it to Grandma’s

in Gardena. There, you ate a broken ball
of caramel corn as a reward for being

such a good boy.


David-Matthew Barnes is the author of the novels Mesmerized, Accidents Never Happen, Swimming to Chicago, and The Jetsetters, published by Bold Strokes Books. He is also the author of over forty stage plays that have been performed in three languages in eight countries. His literary work has appeared in over one hundred publications including Review Americana, The Comstock Review, and The Southeast Review. He is the winner of the 2011 Hart Crane Memorial Poetry Award.