Stardust, Bryan Merck

John 3 16John 3:16. Memphis. 2013. Anon. (photo credit: Karen B. Golightly)




“… the memory of love’s refrain.”


Clematis threads throughout this place; the junk yard
of old cars lays out like a tattered quilt put down
over acres of hill and dale.

We are looking for a brake line for my ’82 Thunderbird.
All those former years have mostly been crushed. They are gone.
Johnny and Billy fan the gnats away with face towels.
I didn’t think of this. There is a rumor of earlier models,
of engines in pristine condition.
Why am I here?

Billy thinks we may hit upon a line we can “adapt.”
I pay a dollar for us to get in. A tinny radio
hangs on a nearby fence. It is on a classic rock
station in Tampa. A Caterpillar belches
distant exhaust and diesel gutturals
in another yard across the two lane.

This is the place of scrap.
This is the place of salvage.
There is yet profit here.

Remembering, rites of passage…
it’s all about the developing of the soul. The soul
is the clothing for the spirit. The spirit
goes beyond the death of the body.

The exquisite flowers of the clematis vine.

Do we have to know we are in purgatory
to be in purgatory?

At 16 years, I saw all of life through a distorted lens; it
was my only reality, everything.

I have never hunted down a part like this.
Johnny’s father was mechanically inclined, as was Billy’s.
I am not. I never stood around a car motor with my father.
He paid a good mechanic.

Clematis threads its way into this place. Clematis holds it together.
Flowers all through this yard, a winding and anchoring. Plastics, fiberglass,
shatter-proof glass and chrome do not rust. The damage here is mostly
from wrecks. The generative tragedy. How many people bled out
on the highway in these cars? How many broken necks? How many
had their first glimpse of that light
everyone talks about? Died.

Smith’s Salvage Yard is abhorrent to the assembly-line assemblers.
Such a place. An anti-Detroit. Billy sees the value in salvage, profit
from ruin. This is an instinctual thing. 3rd millennial southeast
of the U.S. tool-user stuff. (I am beginning
to doubt my humanity.)

I give up. I walk back to the entrance.

Drive-in movies are lost in time, now,
a thing of the past. A place where children might be conceived
in cars. (There is no orientation, here. No direction.)

I lost my virginity in a car, a 1969 Chevy Impala.
I was 16. We were at the Dixie Drive In. My first
real girlfriend. This was a moral ripple, the beginning
of a current that took up in the pond.

I always had beer and pot.
I still have the disease of addiction.
I am yet Margaret Sanger’s “imbecile.”
I bought the “prophylactics” at a nearby drugstore.
I had to ask the druggist for them.
“Wet or dry?” he replied. And so on.

“And now my consolation is in the stardust of a song.”

My favorite 8 track then was by the Allman Brothers.
The car had a stereo system I bought at Kmart and installed.
Most of the sex I had, then, was in that car.

What is the benefit of romance, that love,
when it is broken even beyond salvage? The dust of any star
is surely too far off. God put them in the night sky
to tantalize me. (I pressured her. Everyone
knew of certain doctors and nurses.)

I have retreated to a canopied picnic table.
Near my feet, ants swarm a crust of bread.
The radio skips and pops. It carries a favorite song
from my teens. All of this is happening because I suddenly believe
the world is about to end. Impending disaster limns my every image.
Soon, Johnny and Billy return without a brake line.
They have been discussing fathers’ and car stuff,
no doubt. They have bonded on a deeper level.

Clematis threads its way, here. Softening the wreckage.
I know every love is transient, except for God’s love.
Obsolescence. Nothing can last, function always, here,
in this place of yesterday’s ruin, in the aftermath of calamity.

Bryan Merck

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