The snappy, up-beat horns
and reinforcing piano
of the Stan Kenton standard,
my foot on the gas easing back
so she’ll see the ocean
break white mile after mile.
I’m with a friend’s ex-wife
who’s looking for someone
solo who knows how
to slow kiss and talk
without mentioning sports
or the stock market.
After an hour, we’ll park
and ease around
what’s never stated openly,
variations on a four bar
theme hinted at, dropped,
and picked up again,
by Miles, Parker, Billie,
or Kenton himself,
the past mentioned only
to get beyond it until
she’s a bass viol plucked
and I’m a trombone slud.
It's the cheapest date in town, is best
at midday in deep summer when my boy
has nothing to do before his night game
and I've sworn off all things video.
His mom and sister hit the shopping mall.
The pickups break us in and cars with slugged
rear ends and fenders, restorable quickies
whose misspelled windows augur hope
for the short-on-cash in need of wheels.
We pass them by without comment.
We descend into the story more proper
of American male metal, row after row
of sandwiched rust and chrome that once defined
a style-guy's place in the world.
Today we look for
the Eisenhower specials he admires
from the T.V. comedies and the photos
in our family album.
Up first is a coupe,
a Ford, maybe a fifty-two or three,
needing only a Cad or an Olds V8
to become a flashy downtown lead sled,
plus new window glass, four wheels—with tires—
and an elbow-killing body job.
Then he finds a Chrysler woody rag top,
that bathtub upside-down whose mystery
was always Fluid Drive, a car
so big four couples could make love
He tells me
that with time and his life savings
they both might be saved, if only I'd park
our simple Chevy on the street.
I tell him his brain's gone dead and point him to
a Crosley two-door wagon that's small enough
to use the doghouse for a garage
if he'd just keep his dog in the basement
or chained to the porch.
We rap this way
all afternoon, he, sizing up the wrecks
that cannot miss when he turns sixteen,
I, salting the iron of his would-be loves,
an old Lenny Bruce to his James Dean.
—William Ford, Iowa City, IA