Self-Portrait as Driver

Jeffrey Bean

My father’s earwax on the stick shift:
my finger came up sticky with it

once when I threw it in second. I thought it was funny, 
then, our misfit bodies, their sour honey

smeared on our workdays. I was sixteen years old,
I made the car stagger like a foal,

sunlight spilled into my paper cup in its holder. 
I liked to make the streetlights blur,

I liked the left-leg-right-arm masculine 
dance to hook the gears to the engine.

The absurdity of it on my hand—auditory
marmalade, tarnished butter—and out the window the glory

of crows barking spring awake. Evidence of the man 
who all but quit his job to turn logs into violins.

Who took classes to learn to paint light. Who gifted me that 
car. It had a hatchback, a hole under the floormat

where the pavement raced and we tossed our apple cores. 
It had our breath, our skin, a meager eighty horsepower—

strong as ten vacuum cleaners, my dad said. I raced the engine
anyway. I didn’t know a body’s pain could change a person.

I had headlights, every road in the United States, a radio.
I liked to pull over and poke at sand. I thought I was a crow.

About the Author

Jeffrey Bean is the author of the full-length poetry collections Woman Putting on Pearls and Diminished Fifth and three chapbooks, most recently Ella’s Plan, chosen by Naomi Shihab Nye as the winner of the 2022 Poet’s Corner/Maine Media College Chapbook Contest. Recent poems appear or are forthcoming in The Southern Review, Colorado Review,, Sugar House Review, Poet Lore, and The Laurel Review, among other journals. He is Professor of English at Central Michigan University.