Car Talk
by Robert Walicki


When he was alive, I never wanted to learn
the meaning of metal, snake of a muffler underneath,
chugging guttural exhaust from the rust of rot.

Or even the growl and crumble of brake pads,
the burnt rubber smell at a stop. I see my father’s face,
ashy in the shadows under a hood, his tank top dotted with sweat.

I am disappearing under the slow blur of his fender,
ratchet clicks from a socket, clicking his life away.
The brittle punching bag of his heart,
The fist growing in the small of his back.

But he works because he has to, lost in the clear coat
of sea foam, Eldorado’s dream. I learned then,
how a car can swallow a man,

head first, then shoulders into the trap jaw hood,
the quiet scream of the grunt, twist of a wrench,
skin of a knuckle dinged, greasy fingers stained with blood.

I take his 40 years into my bones and kneel today on rainy gravel.
Jack up my wife’s Malibu and reach underneath, shine a flashlight
and slide my head into the dark. the shadow above me, rocking.






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