September 8, 2012

Maya Jewell Zeller

HONESTY

It’s true I drove an SUV once
through Fresno with a backseat full
of college boys to whom I found myself
having to explain you could still catch herpes
even while wearing a condom. One of them
in particular was incredulous, he was listening to his iPod
and he removed his headphones and said he had
a few more questions. These were my husband’s
varsity runners, and I was a volunteer, so I was awarded
the new rental with only four miles on it when we left
the lot. I’m not going to lie—
I liked driving it. It was nothing
like riding coach or making love
with protection. There were so many buttons
to push, and they all did something satisfying,
like drop from the ceiling a DVD player
for passengers or warm the driver’s legs
in just the right places. The seats were leather,
the kind you feel guilty just sitting on,
the good kind of guilty when you can’t help
but imagine parking somewhere with someone
so you can watch the stars rise over the city,
take time to check out all the automatic features.
The boy you’re with will want to know
how things work, and you’ll end up showing him,
because he is young, because he has a bag of sour apple
or peach fruit rings he’s willing to share, because his face
can look so becoming in the streetlights.
But mostly it’s because you can no longer remember
where you were going. Was it to dinner?
Were you taking him back to his hotel, where
he’ll sleep, dream of winning?
Or maybe it was a nighttime snack
run. The SUV is black
and the night is blacker. You can feel it
closing, like a fist around a steering wheel.
You’re not the fist. You’re the wheel.

from Rattle #36, Winter 2011
Rattle Poetry Prize Finalist