jessica (_arspoetica_) wrote,

fall 07 poetry portfolio as of 12/21

This is what I've put together so far this semester. The first six are part of the series "Quarter Mile" as it stands so far, and then I have a few other unrelated poems that I'll post separately. !CoMmEnT pLz!

The Mechanics of a Man

Infected at a young age by a love
for metal and mechanics, you married the wrench
and spent late nights in the garage.

Each car another fickle lover,
each complaint another challenge in dissection,
you take your tools and life the hood.

The cool metal loosened in your calloused hands,
screw by screw, the engine comes apart
and spreads itself in your image

Across the concrete floor, blushing with sooty
grease under hot flourescents. The parts perfected
for their purpose, each one then begins

To return to its place within the frame.
Your quick hands, smeared with black,
move with surgical precision

Until not a piece is missing.
The hood slams shut, the key is turned,
you coax the engine to a purr

Pumping the gas pedal just so.
Here in the garage, everything is tangible
and nothing is broken forever.

Our Sundays Are Devoted

On Sundays you get up early, holler
at me to get ready. We wear our best:
something worthy of the dirt and dust,
no clean, white dresses or crisp, starched collars

Here. An hour later your truck starts up,
trailer in tow, and we begin the long
drive towards the track, road stretching along
the wrinkled green of endless hills. Close up,

The mountains begin to emerge from a sky
so steel blue no cloud could ever break it.
We finally come to the rocky split
in the mountain range and both know what lies

On the other side. You join your brethren
racers once there, singing asphalt amen's.

[Your fists clenching the throttle,]
You come into sight out of breath,
panting, pushing the bike back to the trailer
where I wait. I watch you lift the helmet
off and peel halfway out of the leather.
Your hair is slicked back and the thick air
in the trailer captures the soured smell of sweat.

You pause long enough to quickly consider
the slight breeze on your wet finger,
the tread of your tires and how they wear,
the weight of your body and bike.
Your heart beats as hard at the furious pistons
restrained by a heavy hold on the clutch.

In the left lane of the drag way your focus is fixed
on the falling of the tree lights slowly down to green.
Like a rubber band snapping, you launch
down the track and begin to shrink,
begin to blend into the black asphalt,
a hot August phantom at the quarter mile.


One time your bike reared up and flung you off
onto the ground. Even through the leather
the asphalt scraped your skin down to the muscle.

For weeks your knee pussed and ached
and refused to bend. But the body is resilient.
Years later, I wonder how you didn't die,

Or if it was death you confused for the finish line.
Faster, harder, stronger: you've annihilated every
threshold of existence. Even the thrill of speed

Bored you eventually. These days, your body
is a cockroach, shrunk down to hardness,
boiled down to bone. You smoke and live

And smoke but never die. You hurt yourself and I
am left to watch. My mother swallows pills
To numb the stress. The heart beats out of habit.

Disconnected, I watch the chase as if it were a story
on the evening news. I feel none of the adrenaline
and switch the television off. The screen goes black.

The Hard Waking

A Small resentment furrows up my brow
when the men at the Sunday races
still call me "little miss" and reserve
their tasks for boys with dirt smudged
across their cheeks, grown-out hair
poking their eyes. My silhouette echoes
something they've seen in their mothers,
wives, their own daughters.
I should be somewhere else.

When I don't learn beyond the age of twelve
to ride a dirt bike, or throw a ball,
or even stop crying so much,
you get frustrated.
I've left something to be desired.
I start filling in my shirts
and you buy my brothers more expensive toys.

I stop showing up on Sundays to the track.
You assume I've begun to resent you.

Late October, years past,
my oil light blinks on. Not blood red,
but pink, unsure, like a sleepy eye waking.
I should have learned to change it.
We should have learned to talk.

Rings in the Water

men wish for sons to recreate
themselves, with muscles and morals
both solid and rich, a testament
to how they've lived their own likes,.
but sons are merely shadows,
effortless and cold. daughters are
the true test of what's absorbed,
the clear mirror of a man's heart.

father, if you think of me as strong
then strength radiates from you.
if you feel weak then that is what i am.
there is no choice that doesn't ripple
always outward, no defeat
you feel alone. i feel it all.
our lives tangle, intertwine like vines
and love grows wild as weeds.

[i have seen your body, absent of its mind]
limp as a cod yet immovable as brick,
limbs flopping in the dry night
as your skull clunked against the gutter.

words were spilling out of your mouth lucid
as water's jet, and i on my knees, hands cupped down
to your face, could not catch a single one.

father without form, numbed and nameless,
without love or language, without reason to be
loved, or even the capacity to receive.

your murmurs of resurfacing are an illusion:
a language not in the vernacular, something
unspoken as latin, as dark as the gut it was cultured in.

i find myself thirsty for its origins, find myself
studying your drunk eyes, your dispossessed body
stumbling over itself. i've committed to drinking
you in and making a muse of you.
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