Fender bender and other poems


Email to Al Sullivan




They kill you with small cars,

good mileage vs. impact death rate,

the fender crumpled up to your chest

like a rolled-up tuxedo plate

from a Laurel and Hardy film,

only bleeding at the chin--

and the back seat part of the tiny

trunk, exploding gas tank

seeping of foreign fluids

and memories of elegant

days in grandfather's cadillac

when worries of AIDS, war, and

crack cocaine took back seat

to the configurations of

unhooking her






I wait for the tow truck like a helpless child,

the lost fortunes of machine bringing all to doom,

not stuck on the side of the road this time,

but in the role of mourner,

awaiting the burial of a friend--

tow truck as hearse lacking flowers,

car headlights like empty eyes,

even the key doesn't turn in the ignition any more.





Sitting on the side of Route 46

with Hamlet reflected on the windshield,

the ghost of a king whispering of a devilish plot,

as cars rush over the bridge,

rumbling the motel sign and diner lights,

a might too warm for October,

a second Indian Summer,

slowly etching the leaves to brown,

leaves dangling in the bland beams of headlights and street lamps,

bleeding alternately amber and blue,

rather than red,

resisting to the last laugh the cry of autumn,

wet, crumbly tears falling as my car window lets them in,

as if to protect these few from the morning holocaust

that will wake to a covered street.





They broke the windows on the old Datzun

because it sat too long in one place,

a victim of environment,

taken apart piece by piece

until only the dust survives,

curious ghetto children

looking for thrills first,

then enlightenment,

how one wire leads to another,

tugging at the ends till they shake free

like the clock I took apart at three

and could not piece back together

without a dozen extra elements

the war horse car like a child itself,

dying, not growing,

each part slowly crumbling after ten years

a foot might have been more easily severed,

the toe nails glinting on the street like lost jewels,

headlights, mirrors and windows,

not one thing of value left inside or out,

just memories.





Junk yards walk on metal limbs

through the high reeds

and screeching gull-voices

that weave up from the sea

palisades of plastic trash bags

marking distant wall

where ticket counters and parking lots

drag in bodies for sport

thick fumes of parkway and turnpike

stretch with refinery stench

like clouds of death,

tumbling passed

without comment,

while I, beneath the eves

of the highway

stretch out, fishing line

and sleeping bag

in the back

of an abandoned






We launched ourselves

from Portland, Oregon

in a `57 Buick

with no brakes,

a full load of hopeful

people seeking New York,

Route 80 divided into

North and South

like the Union,

a West Coast Civil War

which always came to blows

in Salt Lake City

where sad-eyed Mormons

preached to us

about our Hippie ways,

while paying go-go dancers

minimum wage,

prostitution widespread

beneath the great

temple walls,

threatening us with jail

if we stopped for gas.





Not me, Mistah!

I got a car at home

and a brother who taught

me to drive at ten

tearing down Broadway, Paterson

with no hands,

making me screamed till he learned

me the trick

not to look for cops or people

or to think there was anybody or thing

that was gonna save me but myself,

doing a fair job of that since

though I admit

not as well as

my brother since

he's dead!





Where are you going,

bright corvette?

Your macho, menstrual mentality

humming in the streets,

the indignant poise of

arrogant youth

pressed low against asphalt,

with painted wealthy faces

behind your glass,

not real or caring or whole,

no thought passes between

those minds

only motion and impression,

cold and gallant and

as out of date as

Don Quixote,

a female Sancho Panza

painting her nails

in your side seat,

as you search for

windmills to






The fog's up tonight,

not deep and dismal,

but a soft haze hanging

over the street lamps

like a T.S. Eliot poem,

almost smoky,

as if each barroom had opened its doors,

letting out the steam of over-heated men and go-go dancers.

It circles the orange tip of my cigarette and me,

a damp hand pressed against my chest

as cars zip down the highway oblivious to it,

truck horns blaring,

high beams flickering like demon eyes.

The silver shell of the Tick Tock Diner

glimmers through it like a 1940s photograph,

white waitress uniforms moving from window to window

its small gravel lot stuffed with cars.

Old men with bad eyes

sitting behind their steering wheels

waiting for the fog to lift,

and me among them,

old at twenty nine,

too frightened to slip back into the stream of moving traffic,

too restless to stay put,

coming, but never going,

as if frozen by the fog.





Walking in an odd place,

with wood floors and white walls

and windows wide, wide open,

sun winking madly

behind waves of waiting rain

and brownstone neighbors

with brown stained stairs

and horns honking, and

voices crowding the still

wet wires aching,

chirping, flirting

ravenous birds, and the

chip, chip, chip of a

mouse in its hole,

and me, nearly naked

rubbing it all deeper

into my eyes.





She wears thin to nothing,

drinking up sand dunes,

eyes burning with salt and desire,

her dreams crashing under

dawn's cool umbrella,

the melancholy of perpetual motion,

rushing to and fro,

a shy actor waiting for

its audience of beach towels

and sunburns and

dancing, loving moon.





Everyone mistook him for the plumber,

his purple van parked perpetually at the curb,

pealing letters from some previous owner's profession,

the phone number long vanquished,

but not the name,

drawing old women with steel wool hair

whose clogged drains and burst pipes

needed his hurried attention.

And he, fresh from sleep,

rubbing his grizzled jaw

with long practiced irony,

taking whole minutes to tell them

he's not what they think.





The night bends softly to a single

gentle finger of a head lamp  misaimed,

whose partner rides

like a blank faced stranger in the darkness.

Drizzle nicks the windshield,

dotting it with senseless periods

that smear into protracted arcs

with the sweeping rubber wipers,

the tires moan,

crying through thru metal rectangular

 honeycombs of an expansion bridge,

stretched across the lapping flow of dark brown liquid,

 sloshing white in the cool dreary spray of imitated light.

I think of you, my missing partner,

 leaving me half blind and alone,

leaving me to moan across these waves without direction.

But I don't know you,

or the soft brown that splashes at me

from your watery eyes.

They are an addiction.

They are the nagging pull

of the westward wind at me

as I stand on this bridge's end waiting to leap,

waiting to immerse myself in the thick flow below

and fill my lungs and heart and head with you.



poetry menu

Main Menu

email to Al Sullivan