I’m not sure why I miss you.
You were just so many pounds
of steel and glass, rubber
hoses, worn fabric seats.
Rain was beginning as motored out of town —
just the faint kestrel of it
coming down from Hope.
Rain was beginning and the sun was moving
down the back of the sky (I had missed my early start).
The plan had been to take the low-road, making
time for the lakes above the heat of Kamloops.
Just as night was falling, I would have
pulled between those gates.
But I started late, and as I passed
the ever-present curtain of rain at Hope,
I knew that I must take the mountain way.
After Hope, the road diverges,
and on the shoulder of the higher way,
a portly man held out his thumb.
I pulled to the side, thinking
“no one should be under this flood.”
We talked of home as the sun shrugged
(and with it, the rain faded).
Marlin’s lights were failing, but we had
just enough light to catch a cold
from the overcast grey of the sky.
Coastal mountains consumed us,
shadows greedily snapping up
the last of the fading light —
a warm and humid darkness.
My passenger fell to silence as we passed
under this other veil, the only sound
was Marlin’s choking cough, against the grade,
climbing deeper into shadow.
The Coquihalla’s summit was black,
and the abandoned tollbooth kept a blind watch.
After the summit, Marlin’s lights began to pale,
flickered as though exhausted,
and as we made our passage down,
they shuttered one last time, before her lungs
finally dropped between her veins.
The headlights abruptly snuffed,
the pedals uselessly flopped, like
dead fins on the floor.
All her fire gone — a piston piercing her
ventricle chambers, spilling viscous oil
and antifreeze, like water in her chambered lungs.
I put her in neutral and let the night
swallow us like a whale.
I tried my luck with the key, but the battery
must have been shot, as well as the piston popped,
as well as the pressure for the brakes being sapped,
and, to my further surprise, it seemed the clutch had locked.
We hurtled through the whale’s gullet,
hearing only my passenger’s cries
and the steady knocking of the rumble-strip.
I could not see my passenger’s face, or even
my nose; this catastrophic darkness held us so.
Into ever deeper valleys we plunged,
only to rise and plunge again.
I opened the driver-side window to feel
the wail of the night — or was it the whale,
diving ever deeper into the inland ocean’s
murky trenches, with us contained?
And just like Nemo in his maelstrom,
I had lost all control of my Nautilus.
My blue-grey Marlin had failed, or I
had failed her.
The interim terror eventually passed,
as we slowed to rest on some black plain.
Or, as we stumbled out to find,
the crest of a wave, with a trough
that delved beyond our sight.
But how is it we could see?
Unless — like a beacon, a pair of high-beams had cut
around the edge of our mountainous road.
So illuminated, it seemed we had passed
on the brink of a vicious trench;
our ever-present shoulder crumbling
to a hungry void below.
I felt for the latch on Marlin’s hood,
and gasped when pungent steam escaped.
I could not see within, but soon the high beams slowed,
like a lifeboat finding flotsammed souls,
nearly lost to the night or the storm.
I never saw within —
Marlin, I know that I let your oil dry,
that I never repaired your undercarriage,
or cleaned your connections — stopped your invections.
I am to blame. I am the runner that
warrants the whale’s gut.
You were just so many pounds
of all that made you up,
but you were, without a doubt,
the best damn car I ever had.