HERE TO THERE

It ran, got me from point A
to point B, often with a few
starts and stops, always
begrudging, and a ghastly
shade of yellow that helped
explain why I could afford it
in the fist place.

The windshield wipers died
periodically, so I avoided
rain when possible
or accepted a soaked
or frozen arm when not.

Eventually the top
of the carburetor came loose
but Double Bubble gum
chewed for no more
than five minutes
made a suitable glue
that was good for at least
a couple of days.

It was a disaster, and yet
I miss my old Opel Rallye even
if the German’s couldn’t spell.

HARLAN

You came, Harlan, to Rochester
somewhere in an endless winter,
“Ellison in Tundraland” you said.
We all chuckled approvingly.

You said a short prayer
climbing into the rusting Opel,
sliding on the edge
of oblivion, and
the approaching snowplow.

You stood, hoarse, smelling
of Borkum Riff and English Leather,
a tweed jacket over a polo shirt
and thinning jeans
and told us of the insanity
of television, a medium
pandering to idiots.
We nodded, hoping
you would finish before
the Star Trek rerun.

We sat in Pat and Sandy’s
as you consumed two orders
of fries, and a dwindling
bowl of ketchup. Later
we sat in the Rat, staring
at the empty bottles
of Boone’s Farm until
you took pity and ordered
two pitchers. You were
our patron saint.

Solzynitsyn was exiled
to a cabin in Vermont,
staring as the leaves greened
and fell under winter.
You served your banishment
in the land of lost souls,
miles from any reality.

First published in The South Carolina Review, Vol. 33, No. 1 (2000)

WINTER MEMORY

As a child I know the winters
must have been milder, as it
was never too cold to have my parents
take is to Sheridan Park where
my father would drag the old
wooden toboggan up the chute
adjacent to the stairs as we ran ahead,
and smile as we hurtled down
seeing how far we could go
across the snow packed runway.

After an hour, when our hands
were blue, the mitten clips
long since defeated, he would
once again smile as we drove
to Louie’s for a foot long and
a couple of orders of curly fries.

I’m thinking the weather changed
right about the time my parents
packed off to Florida, as if God
had given them some Noah-like
warning that winters would soon
get ugly, or maybe He was just
trying to help Detroit, since my step-
siblings had to have certain cars,
while I struggled through winter
in the north in my leaky, rusting Opel.

THE GREAT HERE AFTER

When it’s time, i suppose
I’d like to go like my dog and cat,
slipping away as they were gently stroked.
It could be like that, there’s a chance
but I can’t count on it, no one can.
I never did try skydiving, too late, now
and so a failed or fouled chute won’t be my fate
and the closest I came to auto racing
was a weekend at Bondurant and my skill
limited my career to local road rallying
in college, and few die in under-powered Opels.
Maybe I’ll know my end is near, and maybe not
but it won’t be in a blaze of glory
and my ashes will sit on some mantle
because only those of the famous, like Richie Havens,
get spread from the plane over Woodstock.
But, then again, none of that
will be my problem, so screw it.