On reading Yehuda Amichai at Mr. Carwash

by D.G. Geis


Yehuda was a Buick man,
I’m sure.
 
How heads turned
in Jerusalem to catch him
 
tooling down King George Street
in his sky-blue convertible Riviera.
 
When words escaped him,
what else could he do?
 
A ride would clear his head.
And when the blank page of Spring
 
spilled its whiteness, right to left,
over the jaded stone,
 
he tasted a parolee’s freedom–
and a personal greeting
 
from the Warden, the benign shalom
of two neighbors meeting
 
at the downstairs mailbox.
But I am not in Jerusalem.
 
I’m at Mr. Carwash in Houston
and they do not wash convertibles.
 
There is a mosque next door
at which the shoeshine boy
 
gazes indifferently
from behind a rampart
 
of wingtips
and saddle oxfords.
 
In the drying lanes,
emboldened Mexicans wave towels.
 
But they are not surrendering;
it is only the signal
 
that a green Mercedes is ready.
And in the waiting room,
 
a four-year old
wedges gum wrappers
 
between sofa cushions
while his Father looks away:
 
like a Jew at the wailing wall
carefully sheltering prayers
 
which will never see the light of day.