Jack McCarthy
--- in memoriam Charles Purrelli
The little Chevy Spectrum
with Springsteen blasting
swings into the Sunoco station
just off the Southeast Expressway
late on a Saturday afternoon
at the end of a long August heat wave
A nondescript man in cutoffs
gets stiffly out at the pump marked SELF
while the car rocks and squeaks where it stands
he reads the pump directions intently
before pumping the second-best octane

Suddenly the other three doors open
and in what looks for a second like a jailbreak
four girls in sneakers shorts and tee-shirts
bounce out of the car and into their teen years
one of them belting out Badlands along with Bruce
and the four of them start to rock'n'roll
on the oilsoaked tarmac

Passing cars honk the man finishes filling the tank
goes inside to pay 11.86
the girls are now into linked arms and high kicks
all the unconscious grace that so amazes males
one of them has long, long legs
the singer now is bellowing
deep infectious rolling belly-laughs

The man comes back to the car
smiles a little Okay let's go
squeezes into the driver's seat
the four girls scramble quickly in
like sparrows on a danger signal
or Bell's Theorem particles
the singer riding shotgun
the little car accelerates out into the rotary
and despite fourteen cents change
two attendants stand and applaud

the highway's jammed with broken heroes...
till these badlands
start treating
us good

--- From Say Goodnight, Grace Notes:
New and Corrected Poems

©2003 Em Press
709 Marion St.
Joliet, Illinois

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