Monday, February 20, 2017

Working people

    The car stops, not because
    the driver thought they'd gone
    far enough or because the woman
    said, "I'm sick," or the boy
    had to pee. It simply stopped
    because it had to, and when the
    three get out and he pops
    the hood they discover the fan
    belt had vanished and the engine
    shut down, wisely. It could
    be worse - a cylinder could seize
    for no foreseeable reason and send
    them into irreversible debt.
    Cars are, after all, only
    machines, and this one -
    a '48 Pontiac Six - is
    aged and whimsical. It could
    be much worse - the Mojave
    in mid-July with no shade
    in sight or northern Ontario
    in winter, the snow already burning
    the backs of Father's hands and
    freighting Mother's lashes. They've
    stalled descending into a gully
    in rural Pennsylvania, a quiet
    place of maples leafing out,
    a place with its own creek
    high in its banks and beyond
    the creek a filling station,
    its lights still on after dawn,
    the red and green pumps ready to
    give, and someone there, half-awake.

Against occasion-
al custom in these
entries, this poem
is recited in full,
to remember the in-
dependent proprietor
of the most diligent
poetry offerings of
any shop in Virginia. 

Philip Levine
The Last Shift
  Pennsylvania Pastoral
Edward Hirsch
op. post.
Alfred A. Knopf, 2016©

Xiaoguang Tse, photography
Freddy Keith

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