My New Voice / Mark Pentecost


This is my new voice. Same old paint job, sure,
But check out under the hood:
New clutch, new throttle, new choke,
Block and head remilled in history’s machine shop,
Filters pulled out, the muffler junked,
No catalytic converter. Lines cleaned
Of too much form and education,
The radiator flushed with psychoanalysis
And the overflow topped off with ritalin.
The roof even retracts, like scalp before the brain surgeon.
Now it accelerates like an obsession,
Revs and screams like some rancorous baby,
Or burbles and thrums along smooth as a secret.
I’m not done. The brakes are unreliable,
The windshield snowed in by smashed bugs,
And the rewiring! It’s taken forever,
Burned and shocked friends trying to help.
I need new carburators in my ears,
Sometimes the torque is too much for my throat.

Don’t ask what it runs on. Just listen,
And you can hear how I’m covered with oil and grease,
Too much for an honest mechanic. Hear how soiled I am, how rich.
In the mirror my colorless nakedness, once pallid and poor as
Some god-forsaken panhandle or the Empty Quarter,
Breaks out with a thousand euphoric gushers, blooms of dark sheen,
Stain, and damned spot. Tar sands under my nails,
My fingers glitter with benzene rings.
Orifice, follicle, pore, all ooze synonyms of hydrocarbon:
Naphtha, kerosene, pitch, sweet Texas
Crude, diesel fuel, jet fuel, napalm.
It collects in my shoes and gluts my eyeballs
With anthracite, with bitumen, with blindness;
I weep, and the kleenex stinks of thirtyweight.
My bowels are marshy with byproducts,
Rainbows gather round my shit.
My sludge-congested arteries baffle my cardiologist;
She cannot hide her dismay at
My new voice.
                This is what it runs on.

We are carbon that lives on carbon,
Eating it, riding it, selling it.
How could it be otherwise?
The force that drives the fossil through the
Cracking, the fracking, the bourse
Drives my greasy age in flames
To the anointed conclusion.
My head is the head of a match.
It sits atop my body like the spark
On the end of the restless fuse.
Inside my head, the oil fields are burning.
I stumble in the chaparral and wait for the rest of me to ignite.
By the viscous light, like chicken stock,
Like melting butter, the rendering of some animal’s fat,
I see men as trees, walking.

This is my new voice.
Is it really new? And what is a voice anyway?
At least it’s mine. Not all mine, maybe, but
Still me. Always me.
Me, the ancient fuel. Me, the combustion, the fire-tormented
    pistons,
The coiled steering wheel too hot to grip.
Me the joyride, me the swervings. Look out! Look out! Look out!
Me. Tire tracks like new-turned earth, the asphalt a burned-over
    farm—me.
The homemade cross beside the highway: me.
The highway, paved with flint and shale: me.
Is this what it sounds like, what it looks like,
What it feels like, to have a new voice?
An unmufflered mouth? Dreams in the driver’s seat at last?

Somewhere up the road blue lights flash and people are singing.
Let’s go.

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