With rude clanks my tailpipe
beats the rear axle, each pothole
bruising the brake line’s thin artery
until it bleeds on the transmission housing.
The brake pedal gives up the ghost
and falls to the mat. Diagnosis:
broken muffler strap.
In the auto parts store
butts crawl along the baseboards.
Fluorescent lights superilluminate
the chrome accessories.
The book of life is opened,
my need indexed: one
40″ brakeline for a ’68 Skylark
(and a new strap).
Supine on a creeper
in the chassis’ catacombs
rust sprinkles my face
in gritty showers, fallout
from the slow bomb of time.
Damn! A bleeder valve breaks!
My friend relieves me,
crawls underneath and twists
the new conduit in place
like a glass blower.
We bleed the brakes,
watch red fluid squirt
until no bubbles show,
pump the brakes
until they pump back
and their resistance
feels like heaven.
This is a poem about a real event.
As a poor medical intern in Michigan with
a wife and two daughters, I had no car,
so my fellow interns surprised me with
an emergency page to the hospital entrance â€“
where I found this gift of a rusting Buick,
wrapped with a huge yellow bow. Photos on request.
Sometimes even doctors have to do their own brakes.
– C.E. Chaffin