Paul Pruitt

Vacuum Tubes

The rooms seem darkened in recollection,
But the housecall families must have turned on lights
So Dad could fix their darkened TVs. He was then a
Tester of tubes, dispenser of arcing rays, a comfort

To incommunicados. He had been a soldier, a teacher, and
Would be a civil servant, woodworker, writer. So
Much was still ahead of him as he waited to be
Summoned (with me) past blowing cotton fields, up

Winding roads to hilltop settlements, where in the firefly
Darkness that descended after supper we’d meet folk eager
To retrieve those flickering pictures. He’d crouch, open his
Case—full of probes and jeweled-toned screwdrivers,

Socket wrenches, wires of varied hue—and pulling forth
His pocket light (its clip, when disengaged, made a nice click),
Commence his inquisition of yet another device. After a time—
While I and the household children craned our necks—he’d find

The errant tube and conjure, through its replacement, light and motion.
Then small talk, passage of a paper from Dad to Mr. Man, and we’d
Exit amid promises of payment once the cotton was ginned and sold.
Best of all was driving home, sleepy, when sometimes, outside the

Panel truck’s window I’d catch sight of an honor
Guard: points of light gliding with us, burnt yellow, of the
Magnitude of fireflys but glowing steady, for all the
World like a family of tubes that had tested true.

Paul Pruitt is a law librarian at the University of Alabama. He has published a number of poems over the years, most recently with the Birmingham Arts Journal. He is currently working on a series of poems entitled “Scenes from Childhood.”