Yelping the Mr. Fresh Drive-Thru Convenience Store – by Cal Freeman

Sunburnt against the vinyl tuck and roll
in a baseball-card-in-spokes town, in
a steel mill town, fifteen-axle-bludgeoning-
asphalt-‘til-it’s-buckled town, in an it-all-
must-seem-like-trope automobile, I called
for a pack of Newports, a glass Coke bottle,
two gas cans of beer, a bag of Better Made,
a jar of aspirin, and margarine. He handed it off
through the sliding window with my change.
It was the driving through, the idling V-6,
the gerunds one could make of splendor
and torpor, the idyll of a summer I sort
of remember. The sun on the hood of the car…
I struggle to describe the sun, the hood
of the Impala Lake Erie green.
And another time later that year,
after the bar, in a snowstorm after the bar,
you melted the snow crystals on a brown paper bag
full of cold cuts and half-cartons of eggs
in your arms. A Red Wings broadcast
on the AM radio, a voice like snow
describing a brutal game on ice.
The heater core was failing and the windshield
rimed along a horizontal hairline crack.
Sometimes all the elements are there,
and there’s nothing to say or want but
we loved each other then. Sometimes nothing
quite breaks and the dispassionate machinery
carries on. We called out for everything,
breath mints, milk, and bread, without
leaving the little world of that big car. I wish
I’d held onto that car (two two-by-fours
and rock salt in the trunk to keep
from getting stuck). I’m still toggling
between those seasons, placing them
in a year they never shared. That rear wheel
drive spinning us out and out until
we saw our house among the drifts.

Cal FreemanCal Freeman is the author of the books Fight Songs (Eyewear 2017) and Poolside at the Dearborn Inn (R&R Press 2022). His writing has appeared in many journals including Permafrost, The Poetry Review, Verse Daily, Berfrois, The Moth, Oxford American, River Styx, and Hippocampus. His writing has been anthologized in The Poet’s Quest for God (Eyewear 2016), I Wanna Be Loved by You: Poems on Marilyn Monroe (Milk & Cake Press 2021),