They finished each other’s sentences about the differences
between ’56 and ’57 Chevies, how they rebuilt transmissions,
how the Hurst shifters needed a hole drilled in the floorboard,
as I sat in the back seat hearing tales of another country.
Their dads knew how to build houses and get the right tools,
took their boys to the seances of men huddled in a circle
who spit as they called forth the spirits of wrenches and vises,
while I slept each night on the living room couch overhearing
Mom and Sis whispering in their beds about curlers and creams.
I learned about how to bounce drops of water on the heated pan
telling what size flame would make the pancake batter not stick,
and to speak about love and hurt, and not bolt it down inside.
The soft voices of poets and writers speaking sadness and joy
let me wander in places far away from that sofa in the night,
and I liked myself knowing the things that other boys didn’t
as they lay under cars with friends finding power in engines.
No dad, I sank lower in the back seat hearing how men loved
mastering gears, electrodes, filters, valves, and carburetors
like there was a way of friendship with the tribe of machines
always scary to me, who hissed I was not one of them.
Glen A. Mazis taught philosophy for decades at Penn State Harrisburg, retiring in 2020. He has more than 90 poems in literary journals, including Rosebud, The North American Review, Sou’wester, Spoon River Poetry Review, Willow Review, Atlanta Review, Reed Magazine and Asheville Poetry Review, and the collection, The River Bends in Time (Anaphora Literary Press, 2012), a chapbook, The Body Is a Dancing Star (Orchard Street Press, 2020), and Bodies of Space and Time (Kelsay Books, 2022). He is the 2019 winner of the Malovrh-Fenlon Poetry Prize (Orchard Street national contest).