Ode to My Oldsmobile

Night blue, the size of a walk-in closet,
so long, it was like driving a big fish,
back seat bustle finning behind.

My parents bought if from an old couple
at church for five hundred dollars,
the compartment between seats

a file of neatly folded invoices: oil changes,
tune-ups dating from the time of birth.
I tried not to drink, but compulsion

rose out of me, air hazy
with cigarette smoke, star light
I could touch with my bare

feet, and my chest opened up,
scarves pulled from inside,
away from the earth.

The road glowed like something
cut open, and I would do anything
to stay on my way to the ABC

or this time, Big C Liquor,
and a driving pint of Southern
Comfort like drinking thick cologne.

That night I kept drinking, but left
the car in the parking lot of a bar, found
myself walking the road miles from home,

half my clothes still in the olds, cold.
But weeks later, I was sober, driving
the highway across from the fire station

and Rent-A-Center when someone
rear-ended me so hard, my car
accordioned, flattened all the blue

right up to the front seat, so that I
couldn’t open my door, my boat
of a car taking the blow, keeping

all my bones whole, breath intact,
a fireman talking to me through
the window so kindly, I cried.

I knew that I was bad, ruined
beyond repair, but his tone
built me up like hands. A friend drove

to the junkyard that night, behind
the million necklace fence, the olds
easy to find, small now. I was there

for the silver hood ornament,
and my friend said, you’re a romantic
with surprise, accidents all around.

This poem is from a manuscript in progress by Kelle Groom. Groom's memoir, I Wore the Ocean in the Shape of a Girl (Simon & Schuster 2011), was a Barnes & Noble Discover Great New Writers pick, New York Times Book Review Editor's Choice selection,Library Journal Best Memoir of 2011, Barnes & Noble Best Book of the Month, Oprah.com O Magazine selection, and Oxford American Editor’s Pick. Her poetry collections are Five Kingdoms (Anhinga Press 2010), Luckily (Anhinga 2006), and Underwater City (University Press of Florida 2004).
*Photo courtesy of Roland Brunner.
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