RWB Workshop Poem of the Week – Apr 18

Poem of the Week 4/18/2017

Arthur Russell

At The Car Wash

At the car wash, at dawn, the darkness of the plant was almost
suave, a midnight bathroom trip of shadows
along permissive walls.
Sometimes, the dark had a pilot
flickering in the hull of a heater,
exit sign, canvas towel bin glowing in the pallid
grey of skylight. Every morning
for five years. Eighteen hundred mornings,
or we would hear an air leak or water
drip while walking back with our coffee cups
gimbaled between index and thumb—things
we’d need to fix before we opened — and then,
at the electric panel, the knife switch
took a palm to throw, the sequence
of circuit breakers, compressors and fluorescents
satisfied the order etched in our knowing,
and Alan went to hang his army field coat,
and I walked the wash tunnel, collected
license plates and other parts from yesterday,
charmed by rust that bloomed like frost overnight
on the polished steel-plate flooring and washed
away each morning, and Alan came
to grease the bearings, and the white grease pushed
the greasy water out, and, raising garage doors
to put out the signs, I saw the light’s progress,
the men arriving, trash cans
empty, money for the register,
hanging card of pine trees in the booth, the tape loop
in the customer walkway selling hot wax to no one.
And then we opened, and the cars came, and the people
nodded to us and stood with crossed arms, watching
steam, vacuum wands,
mats flung sideways to the mat rack for a rinse.
And even as we watched, our lives peeled
back one day’s layer, shed and
new exposed tomorrow’s boyish, delicate skin
towards evening.

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