“Demolition Derby” by Sherman Pearl

Sherman Pearl


There’s an innocence in these surrogate
battles between cars—all the bodies
are fortified to withstand the crashes,
all the doomed are made of metal.
Aggressors seem to comfort their victims,
backing away almost ruefully
after smashing them into nightmare
versions of the showroom beauties
they’d been. There is grace
in how the hulks accept fate, how still
they stand, hoods sprung open
as signs of surrender; and courage in the way
wounded competitors keep charging
like heart-pierced bulls
until one by one they stop, finally spent,
and stand bleeding black into the dirt.
And when only one remains
mobile with nothing left to attack
there is love in the winner’s victory wave.
My kid and I used to wave
to each other like that
across electrified little battlefields
at amusement parks.
We’d laugh from the padded insides
of our bumper cars then ram
each other like tanks intent on destruction.
Every jolt felt like affection;
each collision was a way of touching.

from Rattle 29, Summer 2008


Sherman Pearl: “I started writing poetry well after age 50. By that time I’d experienced enough joy and anguish to know what I wanted to write about. The closer I came to retirement from payroll-type work the faster I segued into a (mostly) non-paid career in poetry. I now face the frightening prospect of never being able to retire again…too much of my life story is still untold.”

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