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"list poem" assigment for ELS 302…the scraps, and the draft…

June 27, 2007

The scraps…

It’s the exact color of my dad’s 1989 Ford Explorer,
greener than the Trojan EZ wrapper at the corner,
greener still than your bedroom, but bluer than your kitchen.

Handlebars spread over with the rust of individual raindrops,
tea-colored as the river istea-colored,
shining, otherwise, like the river shines.
And tasting like your mouth after you suck
the summer sweat from my neck and shoulders,
if you mixed that taste with a hint of blood.

We take the front wheel off, to fit the car’s cabin—
this man I have never before met, and I, on the sunny side
of Grove Avenue in Richmond. He is easily twice my age.

The child on the stoop with him wears ethereal,
golden Spanish Moss for hair, and wastes no time
telling me the latest characteristic he has been taught
about himself: “I am this many,” he says, grinning
through his thumb, middle and pointer fingers.
(I remember someone telling me once that the dexterity
of children his age lends itself more readily to this display,
rather than one in which the thumb is held down.)

I refuse a bottle of water, and hand the man
his fifty-five dollars. He invites me in the blue
row house, apartment no.3. I say ‘no.’
He brings me cool, not cold, water apologetically.

The draft…

“Early-1970’s Raleigh one-speed cruiser”

the exact color of my dad’s 1989 Ford Explorer,
springs hanging like twin beehives under the wide seat,
the old frame, the added lights, original paint,
the crest bearing a burnt orange “R” that becomes a crowned peacock,
the year that the color burnt orange was popular,
the name of the town where my first love was born
printed neatly down the front.

the handlebars spread over with rust
in the shape of raindrops fallen
on the fan district of Richmond last winter,
the fact that the rust on the bars looks dappled in the same way
as the tea-colored and blue river water down the street.

the place where a bolt and a kickstand once were,
below it, the numbered inspection sticker looking more
like a thoughtless lower-back tattoo than an ‘amen’ at the end
spokes crossed like skinny, silver arms on a body that’s bored of standing up
air pressure valves that rest unevenly—the front tire’s
on twelve o’clock, the back tire’s at roughly half-ten.

the breadth of handlebars and lilt of frame that make
the glimmering sun suddenly seem to be playing
down the back of a dryad or a sea maiden
rather than on these pipes of aluminum and chrome paint,

then, a bewitching thought,
to write a name and number,
and tuck the half-sheet of notebook paper
in the crack of the door at the stoop’s summit:
“to whom it may concern:
if you want to sell the bike, please call me back.”

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