Getting in Tune


At the back of the junkyard
Lies a neat double row of cars totaled in accidents
Towed in on flatbeds and winched down
With precision, nose to nose and three feet apart.

Each one, at its time, took a terrible hit
Each has its own story to tell:
A windshield starred by a forehead
A hood contorted to a cleft-palate grin
A Cadillac with a pristine grill, but
The rear bumper in the back seat.

I walk among these beautiful machines, artifacts
Of a hundred years’ automotive evolution
… Brought to such a pass

Tattered shards of metal
Rusting at the back of an old lot
Fronted by a converted school bus for an office
And a dismal row of colored plastic pennants.

They remind me of the places
My choral group sang at last Christmas:
The VA hospital, the nursing home,
The mental hospital, the penitentiary.

Tucked into forgettable corners of the city
The human junkyards, underfunded
Understaffed, short on everything
But drugs.These are our report card.

Our performances were sloppy,
They were our rehearsals
For the state competition in January.
The conductor said, “If you have to make mistakes
Make them where it doesn’t matter.”

Of course we didn’t let on
To the audience that they didn’t matter
But somehow I think they knew.


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