We wake, lake water locked
in our ears even still,
to the neighbor washing his Buick.
Maybe spray on chrome is music
to charm the loneliness of sixty-five.
Maybe he’s mad at his wife, or she
is mad at him. Maybe they, too,
have discovered love grows old
and cleaning the car at two a.m.
is salve on that eruption. Or maybe
it’s to ward off the thieves
that have hit the house across the street
three times already this month. It’s August
and the year has wrung out of us
most of our appetites. Appetite—
that unexpected fuel
whose consuming will dream us now till morning.
Through the window I watch the neighbor
give his own shapes to darkness,
to the metal talisman glinting in floodlight.
Maybe he’s thinking of days when people
cared for cars, when twelve miles a gallon
was good enough, when we sat in cars
like the mind in its skull, the soul in its body.
My daughters sleep in the next room,
and washed in the careful light before morning.
The same water pooled in our ears
beads on the fender. He turns off the hose
and rubs his eyes as though he has been crying.
What is a car but a way to get
from one place to another,
an engine that’s always hungry
even if it’s just to cover
the road from dark,
whether at seventy miles an hour
or stationed on the blocks,
the way I go tonight—leaning my way
through all the curves of this summer,
never looking back, looking back.