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—Richard Sonnenmoser


Smell of farm and diesel. But it won’t help

to pump ten cents of fuel into your palm

or to imagine a barnyard. Think: soil.

Nor will it help to think about Boomers.

No one’s going to say, “Souped up.” Because

we are not interested in nostalgia,

I won’t be describing rust. I awake

pre-alarm, buzzed with guilt and desire.

I’ve enrolled in Limerence Resistance.

Most meetings there’s a long discussion—

formal choices in The Kreutzer Sonata

while we all suppress the urge to say,

“You were in my dream.” Why, then, do my eyes

drift toward the floorboards, the shifter?

There’s the road! And there! You should probably

reread the title. A diesel hatchback.

Once, the students hijacked the discussion:

"‘Tis him? Or ‘tis the idea of him?"

Forty minutes later, a fellow erupted:

“Could someone please tell her to stop arranging

her hair, please?” Another had a way

of touching bracelets while rocking a foot

on crossed legs; she was asked to leave the room.

I learned to drive on that car. Some might say

with or in. My street was Charles, and I could

roll-start this old Chevette when finally,

near seventeen, I nerved up. The boulevard

was Noyes, also my elementary school.

No plus yes. To Noyes I rode the bus.

I wish this weren’t about ancestry.

This was a car in a long line of cars

gifted from my grandfather to my dad.

I wish this weren’t about gifts or money or sex.

But after Noyes I went to Bode,

from one syllable to two—and these names

have ripened on their own, no invention.

And Bode spit alive with sex. I once

stood dumb as an eighth grade girl required

this kid I knew, who then switched from Benji

to Ben, to tie her shoe. Later that month

my best friend was shamed from school. She’d gone down

on two guys. Or she’d gone down on one

and had been fingered by the other.

Or it was both. Or it was neither.

Maybe it was story. Maybe it was rape.

Some of my brain’s devoted to the ragged

panic in her face, at school, a Monday,

even when I’m making eggs, even when

I’m running to forget a woman. I stood

waiting at Bode days too cold to walk.

I don’t know the names of the girls who stood

nearby, waiting for a minivan, always

a minivan, and a suburban mom,

to take them to what was next. I do know

the exquisite judder of that diesel

engine, a quarter mile away, and how

lonely it was to know how I wouldn’t

say anything, make a joke, make a face.

The soil and the diesel and the farm:

“I don’t know how else love begins,” she says.

He says, “I just wish I could watch TV,

or do my taxes, or sleep.” Nods: yes, sleep.

Today’s lesson is crystallization:

List the warts and call them warts. Still, new

perfections emerge: an insanity

not feeling the differences between pocks

and stars. I said, “This course is a waste

of time. I mean, she’s sitting right there!”

How lonely to live inside the shame.

How lonely to see my friend, years later,

her bright fade to cheeriness, the lights dimmed

in the Mexican restaurant. I once

walked around with her at a carnival.

That doesn’t sound like much, but when you’re there,

when you’re a kid learning of what love’s made,

and suddenly, without a plan, you’re on

a sort of date—with the electric arcs,

with the say and smile, oh, the say and smile.

We didn’t ride anything or hold hands.

She was the second prettiest girl

in the sixth grade. I lied when I said friend.

For best friend I should be drawn and quartered.

She was someone I wanted to kiss

before she went down on two guys. Before

she was fingered by one and—what was it,

that business about shame and loneliness?

This is the only way to resist it: this.

Some called her by the wrong name. I won’t

mention the Simon & Garfunkel song.

She transferred—a threat on her life. I wish

I could say I didn’t shame her. Chevette:

it’s just the make, or is it the model?

I can never remember. No matter.

It came for me at school. When I needed

a way home, in the cold, it came for me.

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