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.