Neighborhood Car Mechanic

by Marcus Jackson

His eyes only see right
in garage light, his grip leaves
pens black as if rolled in coal,
his coveralls duplicate
his frame, beltless
equator of the waist,
his boots could’ve survived
a mile of lava, his hair
a township of silvering spirals,
forehead a hickory plank
protecting encyclopedias
written in neurons:
caliper and rotor, strut butter,
water pump, spindle,
tie rod, gear box,
rocker arm, distributor.
At six, he risked a whippin’
to dissect his transistor—
his mama might’ve barged in,
him on the floor, screwdriver, pliers,
birthday radio
bearing wire innards.
When anyone happens into him
at the bar, he never accepts
offers of another Miller Genuine,
never lingers later than nine.
There’s a shop to unlock,
voice-mails like captured crickets,
a row of our cars—crippled
or bleeding flammably—
another morning whose sunrise copies
the lifting of brass from a cobalt box.

Published on April 9, 2010