On Metal

Jamaal May

Hmm...drags at the back of a throat, occasionally
becomes mmmhmm...when three men huddle 
around a car, admitting some smaller defeat,
while not quite admitting the emergence of digital

parts means this won’t be solved by ratchet alone.
No one is happy to learn what an afternoon of chafed
knuckles, metal on skin, no longer solves. What can’t 

be pulled from the steel tangle under a hood.
It’s as though they found the wrench that could set 
free a bike from its training wheels only to discover
their daughter has had a driver’s license for years. 

I clap the man at the center of this trio on his shoulder,
not quite hard enough to shake loose a cigarette
dangling almost acrobatically from his lips and say,

I’ll just take it to a dealership and be done. I say it as if this
is not a huddle—like I’m not a team manager plucking 
the ball from my pitcher’s glove early in a game 
that falls near the wane of an otherwise solid career. 

Detroit’s building ’em like robots now, he concedes, slams
the hood, rattles the chassis. He’s probably right,
considering the clank of metal closing on metal,

but I still can’t help thinking of how much the thing
is a like body. The mystery of my Chrysler’s right side
not responding—silent speaker, headlamp dead, window
sealed shut, frozen power door lock—is no more

mystifying than my left ear’s limited frequency range
or the left eye I’m now told is blind by a doctor
who huddles over me to assess some unknown damage. 

Damage that is ongoing. A diminishment I’ll live with. 
I don’t get cars, but I get this: how difficult it is
to get a wreck off cinderblocks, why dad once fiddled 
daily with a dead Camaro, refusing to believe its silence.