The Little Review (littlereview) wrote,
The Little Review
littlereview

Poem for Wednesday and Ducklings


Exhaust
By C.K. Williams


My grandson wants a Ferrari. I buy one for him. Why not?
The second a Mercedes. The third a Porsche. Why not?
How things change—my grandfather wanted only the pickup
one icy Rochester night the year before I was born
he skidded through a gate in and plowed head on into a train.

My grandsons' cars cost a dollar, part of a vast collection
of racers, convertibles, trucks, even antiques from the time
I had my first car, a five-year-old ungainly green Chevy,
not like Lowell's father's spanking new one—"with gilded hoofs,"
wrote Lowell, and, slashingly, "his best friend."

I treasured my Chevy, too, though it plodded compared with
a friend's Olds that sped us one New Year's Eve
after the parties down the Parkway at a hundred and ten.
My grandfather I gather was vain of his truck, and his driving,
but my grandmother would grumble, "He was a terrible driver."

We were good drivers, we were certain, better than good—
didn't we all but live in our cars? Wasn't the best part even
of a date when you made out with your girlfriend in back?
Right now, hitting a hundred, don't we love each other
for how our tires are glued to the pavement and life has no end?

I hadn't seen Warhol's print yet of mangled teen-agers
spilled from their wreck. I didn't see much then beyond cars,
like my grandsons, who know every make, model,
top speed and zero to sixty by heart, and who'll squabble
because one has stolen another's X-something or other.

My grandfather was a Socialist when that word still could be used.
He even ran for state senate, though not surprisingly lost—
he was hardly well off, with a store that sold candy and papers,
and why he needed that broken-down truck, my grandmother
still complained on her deathbed, was a mystery to her.

The first time I was almost killed in a car, an axle sheared,
our back wheel bounced past us, we spun out of control
over a busy highway, and pulled up a yard from a tree,
much like the tree in the photo of the death of Camus
with his publisher's sports car gruesomely wrapped around it.

Such a short time between my automobile madness
and my rapture reading Camus—Sisyphus telling me why
suicide wasn't the route, though at the time it could seem so.
What did he say exactly? I don't think there was much about love,
which would be my reason now: love, family, poetry, art.

I sometimes imagined my Chevy was devoted to me, like a dog.
That was before death arrived; mine and everyone else's.
Anne Sexton's father died in a car: dear Anne made certain to, too.
Pollock, Sebald, Halberstam, West; Tom Mix, for god's sake;
me nearly, four times, and my grandfather Charles Kasdin.

Whom for the first time I miss, and whom if I'd been there
I know I could have saved: Pump the brakes gently, I'd tell him,
and we'd glide up to the rails, and wait in the beautiful snow.
He'd offer some wisdom to hand on to my grandsons,
the train clattering by us, the mingling steam of our breath.

--------

From this week's New Yorker. Williams' newest book is Wait: Poems.

I met vertigo66 for lunch at California Pizza Kitchen, where we shared hummus and had salads and discussed important matters like the Smallville season finale and the latest spate of TV cancellations (FlashForward wasn't a surprise, but I'm still bummed -- it's one of my favorite casts ever). It was a drizzly day and I accidentally parked in the wrong lot, thinking we were meeting at the Corner Bakery, but it was worth the walk around the lake because I got to see both goslings and ducklings after a spring with no babies last year, for which we suspect the Washingtonian management was responsible.


There were several adult ducks in the water, but the ducklings appeared to have been left on their own to forage.


When I first saw them as I walked past the row of restaurants, they were nibbling on the grass...


...but they ducked under the fence when I got too close.


They didn't stray too far, however. I wonder where their parents were.


After a bit of nibbling in the mulch...


...they decided to go for a swim.


I was worried that the geese would come harass them the way they chased away other parents' goslings at Lake Whetstone, but they left the ducklings alone.


Sadly, I couldn't get close enough to the goslings at this pond to get good photos, but it appears that there's a good-sized family. The Canada geese and domestic geese have raised chicks together before, so that white goose is probably guarding them.
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I liked Glee a lot this week, for a change -- not because of anything Joss Whedon did or the Neil Patrick Harris guest appearance, but because of the not-often-featured regulars and a couple of little things that rang my bells. When Jesse said he was sure one day he'd get to hear Rachel sing "Don't Cry For Me, Argentina," I was all for that, and then when Rachel decided that Patti LuPone was her mother, I howled -- Patti isn't quite old enough to have been my mother but when I was in high school if I'd found out that I was adopted, she'd have been my ideal choice (I was obsessed with Evita). We were all betting that Idina Menzel would be her mother and they look so much alike that it would have been a shame not to go there, but I wish we'd get to see her gay Jewish fathers just once -- what kind of dad doesn't go see ANY of his daughter's high school performances? No wonder she's looking for her mom!

And I liked the Artie storyline, though I also wish they'd give Artie something to do that has absolutely nothing to do with his disability. I was petrified for a minute that the mall sequence was not supposed to be a fantasy sequence because I COULD see this show deciding to make him walk, or to make Kurt straight, or to change whatever they decided would keep its ratings up like a performance of "Dream On" to audition for Les Miserables, but the rest of his issues rang really true to me and he's not nearly as mopey or self-absorbed as several kids on the series who don't have nearly the day-to-day struggles that he must have when the show isn't using him for gratuitous cripple jokes, which happens too often for it to be funny. This week it was worth watching for me for "I Dreamed a Dream." And now they need to get Patti LuPone to appear!

After a very sucky 26-56 season, the Washington Wizards have scored the top overall pick in the NBA draft. I'm hoping they will pick someone who turns out to be an inspiration rather than a dud or a jerk.
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