Rebuilding the Engine - a poem / by Michael Garza

My family was transported through most of my childhood by a long lineage of incredibly resilient beaters (Ford Tempo in red, Chrysler New Yorker in navy, Chevy Celebrity in rust), so my fascination with cars began with a wonder as to how cars ran in the first place. How can this hunk of varying metals and liquids heave along for this long?

I have been invited to share some poetry at NYWC 2016, and being ridiculous honored and hyped, here's a poem I finished for it. Through a broader grace and wisdom I was asked to read some older poems that I desperately need to read again, that I need to remember again, but this piece is a composite of where I'm at. There are external politics and internal politics, both of which are difficult and both of which cannot be avoided. Here's to holding the frustrating congresses that must be held. It is long and drawn out, like all of those hard discussions have to be.

Rebuilding the Engine

In the wild there is no matrimony / In the wild a woman will eat her bread winner

In some stories the matriarch's the only thing rising

 her lineage swinging from her beak like paint thinner


From that faith in her belly

she spits in their mouths

all of the false broke down in its acid

the acid accrued where a father's not allowed


Who got backed up by graveyards

who fist taught memory

Things happen for reasons

that reason can't hemorrhage


Sometimes the sweat of ghosts soaks a collar blue

when the Sons of God want to be men too

there's only so much rationale you can chew

before your ma makes you spit it in her hands between pews


Who carried your daylight so he freights the night

He works for benefits she works your heart contrite

Smoke's Kools like a chimney like she's always in winter

like there's no drag long enough to take in a cinder

and light is the same as dark to him

who never taught me to park is him

no man takes up shop in a thought like him

or punches the clock of the heart in him


since that woman's laughter has scattered

we've been trying to gather our hunter

often a woman has given me faith

and a man has given me wonder


Often you call those to walk on water

who only know of oil

of steel mill and forklift not birch or accordance

with the faith of a mustard or the spit in the soil


Oil like the lemon of our last name is leaking

oil like the piston of our bloodline is thirsty

For the dream of a water that kicks over the starter

can unknot these chords by mouth or by mercy


Even spark plugs get tired of getting hit

and oils best spent, it's death made us settle

and the rainbows took on this metal scent

like what collects at curbs is hope when we're sick of it


Thermostats are shot with knowing

doubt and faith grow in similar conditions

you can either build a church or a prison

manufacture traps or engines

decide how you'll keep what needs to be let out


Where to put the chaff and gristle

whittled off to find 1 oz. of self

the pieces remind you your you is hidden

your are mostly enshadowed, at least you're no shadow else


Because sometimes you're trying on the steel toed ideal

and you will have to speak up if you've been sold the wrong set

sometimes a woman will die for the pack

and the church still calls her unfit to defend


if you were raised by carrion and forgotten by the volt

to learn to how to hunt with one blunt song

there is a warrior, a tracker, a forager

who tuned the first howl when he lost his 1st son


and he inhabits the thicket where his pride was driven

he claws his way up from where their instinct has pit them


and he will not fault you for what you're drawn to

for instinct is as instinct gets

how no man's gonna get the best of you

Ima write my name on my neck


We abbreviate renegade on our license plates

because lonely didn't quite translate to consonants

but the warrior smells the ache in our oil

when the world flashes synthetic

he blesses with intolerance


To want one fuel

To howl out one name

That the healing of everything

include my singular pain


Give me one thing at a a time

Give me a triple of one feeling

I understand it's mostly ambivalence

that apartment living means the floor is ceiling


O heavenly hunter, who makes worthy the prey

celestial mechanic, who asks me to leave me overnight

tell me again in your infinite alleyway

while you shuffle the failure across your lips like a toothpick-


that it'll take a couple days but the failure is finite

that the rebuilt heart works better this way

and when it comes down to pay-

just drink with me while I finish it.