“Fuck the Carburetor” by Florence Weinberger

Florence Weinberger


I was just out of high school.
Yes, I said, I am a bookkeeper,
when I’d had only one year of
numbers a few decimals short
of failure.
They hired me, sent me upstairs,
sat me at a desk cantilevered
over the body shop, a pack of
condoms in one of the drawers,
a fountain pen—
and below me, all day,
banging away, fixing wrecks,
the men cursed, fuck this,
fuck that, fuck the crankshaft,
fuck these fucking valves, until
one or another would remember
I was up there, an embodied angel
sent to keep an eye on them
and would sheepishly apologize,
and soon forget.
That was the fifties, fuck still a
dirty word. Even cock. Even
vagina. No longer obscene, fuck
reprises on movie screens, college
campuses, the news.
What is this loon fever that flies off
tongues ad nauseam, mumbled,
thundered, sung and rapped, tattooed on
knuckles, slapped on walls? Wikipedia
calls it profane, but not as bad as cunt in
England, where it’s first. Motherfucker
comes in second, but back to fuck, still
censored in some quarters, as if it causes
skin to peel, as if it comes with grief, for
the seeping out of tenderness, abandonment
of the long caress, promises whispered,
time given, held back, given over to the
rise that came with love and want. When
motherfucker eructs, the rage that rises in the
throat is only love, begging to be won again.

from Rattle #83, Spring 2024


Florence Weinberger: “When I was eight years old, I said ‘fuck you’ to my mother; the beating I got baffled me. Of course I had no clue, only that it was a bad word, not yet in general use when I graduated from high school in 1950. Hearing it spewed with such gleeful abandon on the floor of a body shop in the Bronx, it still had its power to shake me. ‘Grist for the mill,’ as Ram Dass said of just about everything. I took it to include a poem kept waiting for all these years.”

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