First Car

A grille pushed in, one headlight closed as if
Some drunk had sucker-punched it in the eye
Bald tires that we called baloney skins
Bent linkage made it hard to find reverse
A Delco in-dash 8-track and the whiff
Of Armor-all, and cigarettes and wine.

At first it was the idea that I loved,
Of freedom and adulthood, open road.
Soon I learned to love the thing itself
The way it could turn ether into speed
The cast-iron heart that slept beneath the hood
Or rumbled with a smoker’s throaty growl.

But I had not the patience nor the skill
To keep it running when things began to fail
I learned that, mostly, things don’t fix themselves
Or maybe I didn’t want it bad enough
It was, in fact, the Idea that I loved
And not the beautiful broken needy thing.

old car

Stealing a Chrysler on a Rainy Night
(after R. Frost)

Whose car is this, I think I know
the keys are in the ignition, yo –
the owner flirts fatigued cashier
who wishes she could close the store

My girlfriend thinks that I’m insane
to steal a car in the late night rain
we need to leave, that much is clear,
and we have no money for the train

she gives me a look as if to say
“You sure that there’s no other way?”
I wave her over, frightened deer
I start the car, we drive away.

Somewhere a life we can enjoy
I’ll get sober, I’ll get employed
It’s fifty miles to Illinois
It’s fifty miles to Illinois.

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