Car Wash

Jill McDonough is a poet and winner of three Pushcart prizes. “Car Wash” is part of her forthcoming book, Reaper.

Josey and I get girled a lot. People like us, want to be

our friends. They say Hi, girls or What’ll it be,

girls, when they’d never call dudes boys, call some

straight couple kids. But don’t worry about it. It’s fine.

We’re girls at the Auto-Rite; diners; toll booths;

The Drinking Fountain, our favorite secret bar.

You can tell a secret in a poem and it will stay a secret

forever. No one reads poems except for me and you.

The Drinking Fountain’s by the car wash, for after

the thud and squeak of cozy suds, jolt of correlator,

conveyer belt nudging us like baggage. We’re lugged

as groceries, not up to us anymore. The car wash

is sexy—tugged into now languid, now hurried slaps

of fresh blue sudsy rags, taken over, into the private half

light, a tunnel of suds. So there is kissing, sudden happiness,

still. I google, learn mitter curtain, part of the pre-soak arch.

I knew I’d love the lingo, knew there was more than undercarriage,

hot wax, tire bright. Albert ladies us. But Hi girls! calls Gina

or Linda or Nancy when we walk in to the dim din, Brian Williams

on one tv, Law and Order SVU on the other. Josey gets a G&T

and a Black Pearls scratch ticket, or Cash Blast, spondees

that make me laugh. I get the beach of a five-count Bacardi

on ice with Coke, lime wedge in an eight ounce glass. A white guy

tells Josey she looks like Michael Jackson. A black lady regular

rolls her eyes. The guy says I’m not saying she looks like a man,

and I shrug But she does. Or, more than grown-man Michael, right?

We all talk Michael’s noses, Jackson Five to death, determine

when Josey’s nose comes in. Gina tells us come back

St. Patrick’s Day, her conned beef sandwiches, free

for everybody after three. If I have one more I’ll cry, so in love

with the car wash, bar, with Josey, Boston, you. We go to the Drive-Thru

Car Wash whenever there’s salt. Because our red Ford Ranger’s

chassis rusted so you could see sunlight shine through. And the guys

at Morrison’s Auto-Rite said, all sad, you girls can’t drive it anymore.

Jill McDonough‘s poetry has been described as “a gift for those of us who think the poet’s profession is to invent a new language for a singular vision.” The winner of three Pushcart prizes and a 2014 Lannan Literary Fellowship, McDonough is the author of Habeas Corpus (Salt, 2008), a collection of sonnets about U.S. public executions; Oh, James! (Seven Kitchens, 2012), poetry inspired by James Bond films; and the autobiographical Where You Live (Salt, 2012). Before becoming a professor of poetry at UMass-Boston, she taught incarcerated college students through Boston University’s Prison Education Program for 13 years. “Car Wash” is part of her forthcoming book, Reaper (Alice James Books).
Michael KusekCar Wash