“Elegy for My 1958 Volkswagen” by Ruth Bavetta

Ruth Bavetta


Beautiful blue beetle,
curved and dumpy, lovely
as a lumpy German mädchen
overly fond of kartoffeln.

Four cylinders chugging
in the rear, it was like being chased
by a busy washing machine.

Air-cooled engine slow
to warm my feet.
I loved how I could tuck it
into tiny San Francisco parking spots.

No gas gauge, just guess
the gas to get you there.
No synchromesh first gear,
no coasting through stop signs.

Small outside, it still thought big.
Record load—seven bags of groceries,
five kids, one friendly neighbor,
two dogs and a pair of bowling shoes.

I sold it. Never realizing
that it prophesied my life—
the inability to pass abruptly,
the slow fade on the long uphill grade.

from Rattle #38, Winter 2012


Ruth Bavetta: “I was a visual artist for years, until I found I also wanted images that could be painted with words. I wanted to use words, as I used images, to help me make sense of my life. Now, at the age of 76, I’ve become convinced that neither words nor images will suffice, because there is no sense-making. There is only what is and what has been. It’s enough to know I am human, separate and mortal, and that’s where I find my poems.” (web)

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