Thursday, August 24, 2006

Dara Cerv

When I Learned to Drive

I drove our car into a lake. Before I left the house
that day I asked you: What good is it, such a hulking machine,
when we just shuttle it between air-conditioned points?

You said I learned too late in life, didn’t understand
the meaning of a vehicle, wanted it to be the speedy demon
it wasn’t—top released, ocean-side, a hair scarf billowing
up and down the coast. A place to get away in.

                                                                        Under water,
a place for breathing. Not an air-trap against the alveoli
for an asthmatic less-than-thirty seconds.
I imagined the interior of my lungs a swamp
of thickest pinky green weeds. You didn’t believe
I could be so artless—one second parked at the end
of a dock, the next, the old Caddy’s nose dropping
into the brackish water. Air came fast and clear—
small shiny pearls through the browny weeds,
bubbly chains hauling the car down. A loud suck
and the rear windows, followed by the trunk, dipped below—
over my shoulder I saw the light go.
Delight at breathing so freely made me focus
on the sweet way you always looked at me
while I learned the gas, the brake, the rearview. And your hand
over mine on the gearshift almost all the way down.

What Keeps Me Awake
-for Eric

is the hum of rumblestrips as the bus slips
right and even righter—my worst mind
imagines its nose dipping into the Hudson,
water at the windshield a white sheet of bubbles
to parachute us down. I realize that I might die
with strangers, hear what you’re supposed to hear—
screaming tires, scraping metal, in otherwise silence
a hissing sort of ticking. We’re underwater
in a bathtub, listening to the pipes.
Sometimes on these bus rides I lose it:
I might die with strangers. You might die
before I get to you. Trees fling their elbows
in the wind, tsk-tsking, lovers cannot be simply
in each other’s lives
. The bright world goes out
repeatedly to the march of the underbrush, leaves
turning brown, to knotted scraps, to nothing.
Snow pushes dust prostrate to the ground.
I watch its fat flakes fall—each one drums
loud as a sonic boom. I lose it
to the driver over the loudspeaker: We are now,
we are now, ahem, reaching, we are in…

This is: where am I? This will never end well.
There is always a lie:
red birds are a truck seen through trees—
a blaring machine steals the grace
of a cloud of robins expanding in the air.
A whole flight comes through the branches—clear
as when I hear your voice on the other end,
bent to wing me gently in. My better mind
picks up my cell phone to call you. We are almost there.
Cupping the mouthpiece so the others don’t listen.
I don’t think we’re getting out of this alive.

Dara Cerv's work has appeared in Poetry Motel, Harpur Palate, Spire, and Rainbow Curve. She recently graduated Emerson's MFA program, and continues to live and work in Boston.