Alex Skovron – The Studebaker

P Alex Skovron LE P&W Vol 1 2019

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Poems by Alex Skovron

Alex Skovron’s most recent collection of poetry, Towards the Equator: New & Selected Poems (2014), was shortlisted in the Prime Minister’s Literary Awards. The Attic, a bilingual selection of his poetry translated into French, was published in 2013; Water Music, a volume of Chinese translations, appeared in 2017; and his prose novella The Poet has been translated into Czech. A volume of short stories, The Man who Took to his Bed, is his latest publication, and has also just appeared in Czech translation. A new poetry collection, Letters from the Periphery, is forthcoming. (to 2005 only)

The Studebaker

A generation taller than his father, he delighted
in belittling the man’s ‘red-hot neck’ with jibes
from left of centre. Born and bled on the blocks
behind the family garage, his adolescence no less
provisional than the next experimental aesthete’s,
for some reason, abruptly, he started meditating
the carnality of time, concluded with Kierkegaard
that life, hitherto lived forwards, could clarify
only backwards. This annunciation proved tricky,
as by now the ladies were falling all under him,
a veritable polyverse of possibilities, so he played
the latter-day Ulysses whose endless divarications
more and more distanced any putative Penelope
who might have taken it on herself to weave him
into her future, while he just twiddled, dismissing
all claims as unsuited. Indeed, it was really only
once he glimpsed his evasions as a sterile odyssey
that a spark jumped: he resolved to kaleidoscope
his life for one last time with an almighty wrench
and found, in the way jazz can reconstruct a tune,
that suddenly the cylinders of the 1957 Studebaker
he’d once hunched over with his laconic Pa rang
sweeter than he cared to recall. By then his parents
had driven on, and the garage he inherited, its walls
pasted still with callisthenic robusty calendar gals,
became his shed. He never took a bride, preferred
to consult from rooms overlooking the old pumps
(dry for decades now) maybe once, twice a quarter,
but struggled to stay aesthetical, until his paunch
and his purse, tugging in two directions, made him
proclaim a truce with himself. He sold up, booked
a one-way pass to Managua or Montevideo (I can’t
remember which), and was last spotted as a nurse
in a bush clinic while campaigning for some tinpot
politico turned guerrilla turned politico, penning
the odd op-ed polemic for the Guardian, slouched
over the Times cryptic and reminiscing over those
gilded years behind the garage, their intimate music
smothered by the revs and recoils of the old Hawk.

Stubborn Streak

Rummaging in the dark web of his attic,
he resurrects a secret envelope flush
with erotic drawings—his adolescent artistry
of discovery and want. In a Brillo carton,
the red firetruck, its extension-ladder thread
still intact; a Coca-Cola yoyo; the silver
magician’s-box with its cram of vivid silks
crumpled within; a low-rise keep of college
lecture-notes under the dormer window;
and on a shelf of the tall secretary-desk,
graduation token from his parents, a stack
of albums. He lifts the topmost, blows away
the dust, opens at random. Monochrome

snapshot—the two stand close together
by the water’s edge, terrytowel swimshorts,
a trim bikini, his arm claims her, they smile.
Twenty-two, they’d met at a youth convention
in Miami, hit it off. He liked her well enough,
he liked her shape, she was smart and sweet,
and sentimental. Within a month she’d migrated
all the way to Boston to be near him, preceded
by a presuming call from her Denver dad
to check him out, and to warn that his daughter
had a stubborn streak. Nothing came of it,
he couldn’t find the heart to commit, learnt later
that she’d stayed and married, a jeweller from
Montevideo. Probing a drawer, he digs out

a wad of letters, its rubber-band in bits
tracking the bundle with their brittle Morse.
His first love—callow, captivating,
studiously unconsummated. Both nineteen,
they weathered stern parental disapproval
in the Verona of ’60s New England. A year
it lasted, he couldn’t find the heart to commit,
till she wrote to tell him she’d met someone,
an older man, a teacher from Grand Junction,
really sorry. She hoped he would one day
find what he was seeking, signed off
with a row of exes trailing into the margin.
He refolds the letter, scrapes at the dead
elastic, shuts the drawer. His iPhone pings:
he’s late for that wretched anniversary.

© Alex Skovron