Loved This Poem

10 Oct

The Rules of the New Car

by Wesley McNair

After I got married and became

the stepfather of two children, just before

we had two more, I bought it, the bright

blue sorrowful car that slowly turned

to scratches and the flat black spots

of gum in the seats and stains impossible

to remove from the floor mats. “Never again,”

I said as our kids, four of them by now,

climbed into the new car. “This time,

there will be rules.” The first to go

was the rule I made for myself about

cleaning it once a week, though why,

I shouted at the kids in the rearview mirror,

should I have to clean it if they would just

remember to fold their hands. Three years

later, it was the same car I had before,

except for the dent my wife put in the grille

when, ignoring the regulation about snacks,

she reached for a bag of chips on her way

home from work and hit a tow truck. Oh,

the ache I felt for the broken rules,

and the beautiful car that had been lost,

and the car that we now had, on soft

shocks in the driveway, still unpaid for.

Then one day, for no particular reason except

that the car was loaded down with wood

for the fireplace at my in-laws’ camp

and groceries and sheets and clothes

for the week, my wife in the passenger seat,

the dog lightly panting beside the kids in the back,

all innocent anticipation, waiting for me

to join them, I opened the door to my life.

“The Rules of the New Car” by Wesley McNair, from Lovers of the Lost: New and Selected Poems. © David R. Godine, 2010.

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