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ISSUE:  Winter 1985

It is when I work on the old Volvo,
lying on my back among the sockets,
wrenches, nuts, and bolts,
with the asphalt grinding the skin
over my shoulder blades, and with the cold grease
dripping onto my eyeglasses,
that I think of Thoreau
on his morning walks around the pond
dreaming of self-sufficiency.
I think of the odometer that shows
eight circuits of the planet.
I drop the transmission and loosen
the bolts around the bell housing.
I take it in both hands, jerk,
and it pops like a sliced melon.
Carefully, so I won’t damage
the diaphragm, I remove the clutch
and place it on a clean cloth
beside the jack stand. I look
at the illustrations in the manual,
and I think of the lists that Thoreau made.
By the time I get to the flywheel,
grease is clotted in my hair,
my knuckles are raw and bleeding
against the crankcase, and I am thinking
of civil disobedience. I am looking
up into the dark heaven of machinery,

the constellations of flaking gaskets,
and I am thinking of Thoreau’s dry cow,
of his cornstalks splintered by hail.



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