Events with Parked Cars

The car of a beautiful woman is decorated with ribbons.
The car of someone hated, such as a tax collector:
the seats, the steering wheel, the crumpled
cigarette packets, everything is removed from the inside
and replaced by a dog. Frost sparkles
on the windscreens of several hundred parked cars
in winter sunshine as I wander among them,
trying the doors, leaving on the driver's seat
of every one that opens a handful of chopped nuts.
Parked cars are not greedy, not devious, not ironic,
unless the handbrake is off. Some are occupied
by unshaven single men in their forties or fifties,
they sit hunched in silent pools of sorrow, anger
and sullen pride in having no home to go home to.
Once as a child I watched a car being lifted
onto a flat-bed truck and taken away to a distant compound,
my secret wishes still clamped beneath its wipers.
My uncle had this talent: he would fiddle around
beneath a parked car and emerge with a pail of milk.
Brides on Saturdays make commanding gestures –
halt! move left! – while women hang pots and pans,
ladles and nylon brushes from the aerials of parked cars
and the men read newspapers. To scatter an enemy
across the outlying districts, scratch his name
with a coin on the bonnets of adjacent parked cars.
The car of an adulterer is painted yellow.
The car of a sailor always lists to one side.
For making love in, a car should be parked off the road
in pouring rain. A decent mechanic can tell your fortune
from the rust on the chassis, that crusty bronze.
Traffic cones obstructing a parking space
signify a recent death. As the dead exceed
the living, so do parked cars those in motion.
Over one car and then the next and then the next
I make my way to the river, never touching the ground.

from The Age of Cardboard and String (Faber, 2001), © Charle Boyle 2001, used by permission of the author.

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