Engine (For My Dad)
My Dad got to this country
and saw all these
magnificent metal beasts
roam the streets:
each stronger and more glitter
than the last.
He told me,
America Loves Cars,
So, I Decided To Learn Everything About Them.
Someone Will Always Be Needed For Repairs.
We don’t talk much, my Dad and I.
Speak a total of 13 words
and let the hum of the pavement
fill the rest.
My Dad likes cars because
they’re easier than people.
People don’t have a check engine light,
don’t have gauges on the dash,
don’t tell you if something’s wrong.
cars are always honest.
My Dad is always honest.
He won’t talk much,
but lets his motor oil hands
speak for him.
Growing up, my brothers and I
never learned much about cars.
4 sons of a mechanic and not one
of us could replace a blown tire.
My Dad never taught us.
Told us he didn’t want us to know.
Said, he’d be around forever to fix our cars.
Plus, we’d be college men,
we’d be doing more important things.
He always showed love,
but never talked about it.
So while my Dad
teaches me to drive
he turns off the radio.
I was listening to that.
Listen To The Car, he says.
Cars Tell You What’s Wrong,
But Only If You Listen.
And I’m trying to listen,
listen to the whir of the engine,
pistons pumping fire and gasoline
as we cruise down Powell and
I think of the power to get
metal, father, and son,
down the boulevard
and I hear my dad’s heart.
I hear this heavy machinery,
ignition and patience as I
forget to switch my blinker on,
go too fast in a school zone,
and my Dad tells me to check my mirrors,
check my blind spots,
check my weaknesses,
tells me to listen.
My Dad has been listening his entire life.
Never once flipped on the emergency brake,
kept sugar out of his gas tank,
turned the key and carried us with him.
His heart is getting weaker though.
Nothing lasts forever.
Some things you can only prevent
from breaking further.
I try to find the owner’s manual to my father,
try to reassemble the engine of his childhood
and see what steered him here.
But his make is of another generation:
something I can’t understand,
something I don’t find instructions to,
something his dashboard refuses to show.
There is so much mileage in my father’s bones,
spots in the road we have never ventured
because he never took us there,
told us dead end,
told us wrong way,
told us turn around.
I don’t know what he is hiding in his workshop,
what corroded secrets he harbors
like rusted ghosts in a junkyard,
but I want my hands to look like
they have been dipped in oil,
to have done something important:
like a mechanic’s,
like my Dad’s.
I want to be like my Dad.
Someone who is so good;
who carries you out of
the backseat into your bed;
who lets you sit on his lap
and turn the wheel;
who always reminds you
to buckle your seatbelt.
Dad, I’m listening now.
I know you won’t tell me
when something is wrong.
Let’s just drive instead.