Love At Formel's Junkyard
When I say, "Formel's is where the Celibacy went to die,"
those who don't know the nickname of my late '84 Chevy
Celebrity are bound to raise their eyebrows. You couldn't
pick up anyone in that ride, expect maybe a grandpa or two,
which is why I love to watch the wheels turn as someone imagines
what it would be like to "park" at the junkyardto steam
the back windows of some stalled-out station wagon,
springs pressing into your back, breathing hard the faint
smell of mildewwhile outside piles of fenders gleam
in the moonlight among dark mountains of tires.
Lovemaking among the ruins. Something on the radio,
maybe "Muskrat Love." An air of urgency perhaps,
or the opposite. In seventh grade spin-the-bottle,
we lunged at each other across the circle, smashing our tight
mouths together in a way that would make dentists cringe. Embarrassing,
that desire to grab, to take and pull back quick enough to leave
oneself intact. We only wanted to delay what we suspected
but couldn't say: that someday we'd each come to pieces
in somebody else's arms, or alone (thinks the odd boy
in the corner), one way or another.
Take the patron saint of Siena, for example,
Santa Caterina, ministering during the plague, when construction
on the grand cathedral was permanently stalled for lack of living
hands and money. Once she fell from a high window
and liveda tiny cross engraved in the smooth stone
of the piazza stair where she landed. They say she received
the stigmata, but for humility's sake, it only appeared after death.
A person, even a saint, is allotted just so many miracles. Her head
is there, in the church, in a small box in a shadowed corner
behind glass. Press a button to lend it dim light: barely
an outline of sunken cheeks and eyes, so you have to squint,
so the grotesque maintains its holy proportions. Her finger, too,
in its own slender box, shriveled and thin, eternally pointing
to heaven, or to the rest of her body, somewhere in Rome.
Everyone wants a piece of the sacred: the divvied-up saint, or the girl
on the opposite side of the circle who dodges the bottle every time,
or maybe just a few minutes in the moonlit junkyardsome
unattainable beauty you rip apart by wanting too badly. Orpheus
torn to pieces. In Corot's painting of Eurydice, she sits
alone on a rock to examine her snake-bitten ankle. She looks
tenderly at the wound, the venom already begun to slide
through her braided veins. Her face is calm and sad, but
almost smiling, as though she sees in the two swelling holes
in her skin a vision of the whole of everything
to come: her lover's sweet severed head taken up by the river,
muskrats gathered on the banks like an ad hoc chorus, and the reeds
bending to hear the tongue still make a murmured song.