To All Abandoned Cars

by Matthew James Babcock

You have comforted me these forty years.  Always,
when I haven’t looked for you, you’ve been
parked nearby—outside the Moose Lodge
after summer gymnastics camp, before my shift
at Bob’s IGA, alongside a tour bus in Belfast.
This morning, you appear as a crippled Chevette
with North Carolina plates, nosing the curb
near the carousel that workmen
in black-and-white photos transported
from Tonawanda and, piece-by piece, rebuilt
in the purple darkness of Porter Park.
Beyond June’s moody portrait
of dry cleaners and stray golden retrievers,
you inhabit the wastrel skin of
an avocado Ford Bronco on the offramp
we take to the Camas Bird Refuge.  Rust flowers
on the grin of your rear bumper.  A warning sticker
heats a square of fluorescent orange on your
passenger-side window.  Anecdote and allegory,
you allay my fears about raising children
in the modern world, about the threat
of meaninglessness.  The radio warbles notes
on Barber and his “knockout,” Adagio for Strings.
There is no death, your presence says.  Only stages
of waiting until someone comes to take you home.
All my life, your shape-shifting has revealed
the truth of The One in The Many–
the Volkswagen outside San Francisco General
the day I was born, the Brat at Paul’s Market
on that endless afternoon after graduation,
the stripped blue Civic in Mountain Green
on the way to my sister’s reception. You have been
and always will be Everycar. Always wearing
an ironic badge of luminescent gold or hot cherry
that reads VIOLATION or FINAL NOTICE.
Your morality play is the road. Your serial philosophy:
to surrender is to arrive.  Don’t leave me now.
I am only beginning to learn how to drive.

*

Matthew James Babcock teaches writing of all varieties at BYU-Idaho in Rexburg.  His book, Private Fire: The Ecopoetry and Prose of Robert Francis, is available from the University of Delaware Press.  He was a Dorothy Sargent Rosenberg Poetry Award Recipient in 2008, and Press 53 chose his novella, “He Wanted to Be a Cartoonist for The New Yorker,” as a first-prize winner in its 2010 Open Awards competition.  His favorite fruit is the plum—from the tree in his back yard.

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