They started out as automobiles but once
they turned into Dad’s work cars they existed
in a mixed state like plasma or centaurs
not quite living but never fully dead and always
in need of a jump with crackling cables
only to barrel down the road with the muffler
clamped on with Campbell’s soup cans, screwdriver
jammed in the dashboard to run the defroster,
a greasy napkin sucked out through the rusted floorboards
you could see the road through, backseat a tangle
of beer cans and rusty crescent wrenches
and broken pliers, a toolbox he drove past
the brown August grasses, smoke rising from
his cigarette, the ashtray full to the brim.
Huddled out the back door of the thrift store
the death of Capitalism is laid bare:
caged without reason behind chain link fencing facing
front and ranked at attention a dozen captive
soldiers with no battle to bear and wearing
identical Grenadier caps of snow.
No one will ever use them again, disposable
mercenaries heralding planned
obsolescence and the death of the noble.
Or maybe they’re simply discarded broken home
appliances, and nobody’s symbol but my own.
Snow piles up in the night and that’s no image
out there, asleep under the bridge.
Two drunk boys laugh under the Higgins Street
Bridge, climb the girder arches, hand over hand
climb the steel in the dark of night, in swirling snow
climb the foot-wide beam across the Clark Fork
fifty feet above the applauding rapids
climb with chilled hands still drunk but sobering
halfway across these boys are no strangers
they look to one another for answers
they climb under the bridge for this story:
one boy turns back and loses his grip
his fine-spun wool scarf slips loose and falls,
drifts slowly down, twists as it does,
lands on the astonished river, then gone.
Two boys hold on and wait for better light.
Dennis Held lives in Vinegar Flats, Washington, near a kingfisher nest along Latah Creek. He has published two books of poems: Betting on the Night and Ourself.