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February 26, 2008

How to Start a Car at Forty Below

I was a little concerned that the first poem I wrote for the CBC Poetry Face-Off wouldn't be acceptable, so I wrote a back-up poem.  I just got the "green light" on the first poem, so I'll share the back-up poem now.

The theme for this round of the Face-Off is "Heating Up".  I wrote this poem during the cold snap when I was having trouble starting my car.
HOW TO START A CAR AT FORTY BELOW
There once was a time when my car wouldn't start
'Cause the cold was below minus forty.
I couldn't miss work 'cause my boss is a jerk
(His girlfriends all know him as "Shorty".)

My boss is a stickler for being on time
And he'd can me for showing up tardy.
Neither tempest nor flood nor the loss of my blood
Was acceptable to Mr. Hardy.

I knew what would happen if I showed up late
Mr. Hardy would start with the screaming
And then he would yell 'bout the fires of Hell
And I'd get a mighty good reaming.

I couldn't be late and I couldn't not show
'Cause I wanted to get my next paycheque
I needed to grow my small pile of dough
'Cause I wanted to buy a new tape deck.

Since the car wouldn't start I would give it a boost
With the charger I'd bought for that reason
The cheap piece of crap, with a snap and a zap
Shorted out in a mild act of treason.

Now I'd just missed the bus. It was too far to walk.
My neighbours all had the same problem.
CAA couldn't come and the taxis are dumb,
So I didn't have much of an option.

I'd plugged the car in through the long winter night
And had racked up the watts on the meter.
To get it to start I would have to get smart
And find some clever method to heat 'er.

I got a hot plate and a George Foreman grill
And a blowtorch, a camp stove, hair dryer,
A fresh hot cross bun and a soldering gun...
Almost anything I could acquire.

An iron, some candles (the kind that don't smell)
Some hot rocks that I got from my sauna
If it was hot it was grabbed on the spot
(If she'd been there I'd have grabbed Madonna.)

I turned them all on and I plugged them all in
And then put them all under the motor.
They glowed rosy red but the engine stayed dead,
So I needed to bring in the fire.

It takes certain wisdom (the kind that I have)
To heat up an engine with flames
It takes special care and an ounce of despair
When you place the flame under the frame.

It can't get too big, but it can't be too small
If you want it to work out just right.
The wood must be dry. You must keep a close eye
To ensure that your car won't ignite.

I was feeling quite frozen. I looked at my watch.
I had only ten minutes remaining.
"You are quite overdue so I bid you adieu."
He would say with his squeaky voice straining.

I would get that car running no matter the cost
And I'd show up to work right on time!
I was mad to the core. That's the reason I swore
To give no ounce of joy to that slime!

With the fire still crackling under the car
I turned the key in the ignition...

... Hurrah! The car started! And so I departed
Intent on completing my mission.

I sped down the highway - a rough bumpy ride
'cause my tires were frozen and lumpy.
But, success was in sight and the future was bright!
I was no longer edgy and jumpy.

With five minutes left, I was feeling alright
And then sensed something quite disconcerting.
The car filled with smoke and I started to choke
And I saw that my engine was burning.

I rolled down the window and hung my head out
And the wind froze my tears to my eyeballs
But I couldn't stop 'till I got to the shop
Though to most it would seem suicidal.

The flames were enormous and leapt from the hood
The chill that I'd had soon receded
Cars swerved from the path of my fiery wrath
And my progress was made unimpeded.

The fire spread fast and my bucket seats caught
But I was determined and focussed.
I pulled into the lot and jumped out like a shot
And then watched as my Echo exploded.

My car was a smouldering pile of slag
But I'd made it to my destination.
In spite of my loss, I'd prevented my boss
From abolishing my occupation.

I walked to the store with a minute to go
But the door to the shop wouldn't open.
I gave it a nudge, but it still wouldn't budge
It was locked up as tight as an oil drum.

Taped the door was a note from my boss
I read it, then ripped it away.
It read "Only a brain dead nit-witted pinhead
Would go out on a day like today."

Now, Yukoners know that it gets pretty cold
On the dark days and nights in December.
If you need to go out you have reason to pout
Like I do every time I remember.

I learned a good lesson in spite of the loss
About driving when everything's freezing
If your car doesn't start it's because your car's smart
And I don't recommend you try heating.
CBC has finally announced the details for the Poetry Face-Off in Whitehorse.  Hopefully you'll be able to make it out (or can tune in) to cheer the poets on.  It should be a good show!

3 comments:

Malva said...

Awesome poem! I love it!

IndyComp0T1 said...

Great poem!

Lindsay said...

Great poem Michael!