On reading Yehuda Amichai at Mr. Carwash

by D.G. Geis

Yehuda was a Buick man,
I’m sure.
How heads turned
in Jerusalem to catch him
tooling down King George Street
in his sky-blue convertible Riviera.
When words escaped him,
what else could he do?
A ride would clear his head.
And when the blank page of Spring
spilled its whiteness, right to left,
over the jaded stone,
he tasted a parolee’s freedom–
and a personal greeting
from the Warden, the benign shalom
of two neighbors meeting
at the downstairs mailbox.
But I am not in Jerusalem.
I’m at Mr. Carwash in Houston
and they do not wash convertibles.
There is a mosque next door
at which the shoeshine boy
gazes indifferently
from behind a rampart
of wingtips
and saddle oxfords.
In the drying lanes,
emboldened Mexicans wave towels.
But they are not surrendering;
it is only the signal
that a green Mercedes is ready.
And in the waiting room,
a four-year old
wedges gum wrappers
between sofa cushions
while his Father looks away:
like a Jew at the wailing wall
carefully sheltering prayers
which will never see the light of day.