by Allyson Whipple
On any other Sunday we might be gazing
at the afternoon sky, but today we’re staring
at my car’s grease-splattered undercarriage,
flecks of dirt falling into our mouths
when I jostle a fixture too hard. Our fingers
leave grimy prints where we press them,
our gloves useless against 60,000 miles
worth of work commutes and road trips.
To fix the axles, we must remove
tires, unhook wires, slide joints
and bearings from their housings.
Your sweat drips into puddles, mingles
with dollops of grease that fall as we pry
singed metal rings apart. Grease running
all the way up to my shoulders, softer
and smoother than I’d imagined, more green
than black, more velvet than tar. Grease sliding
under my collar, into my bra, streaking across
your forehead, running down your nose.
Fixing what you’ve broken requires
dismantling even parts that work.
Then the hard part: rebuilding
My back aching from hours
of lying on concrete, your knuckles
ribboned with scratches, my head
a field of bruises from each time
I sat up too fast. Learning the body
of this vehicle, feeling the connections
between systems, understanding
a machine the way I never have before.
To fix a car, you must believe
in your ability to restore everything
you’re about to pull apart.
Allyson Whipple is the author of Come into the World Like That (Five Oaks Press, 2016) and We’re Smaller Than We Think We Are (Finishing Line Press, 2013) and co-author of the interactive fiction Choice: Texas (www.playchoicetexas.com, 2014). She serves on the board of Borderlands: Texas Poetry Review, and teaches technical communication at Austin Community College.