On the Difficulty of Pumping High-Octane Gasoline into a ’39 Buick Century without Spilling a Drop

This summer at the Junction in Neon he pumps gas.
It’s 1939. Mantle isn’t famous yet. He’s still a kid.
In Commerce, Oklahoma, he’s having a picture taken.
On a pony at a fairground. My pops is seven, a boy.
Twelve-cent-a-gallon high-test, leaving the nozzle,
sounds like whispering his name, Roy. He leans in.

The trick is to lean against the curve of fender, wave
all of Kentucky quiet, the showroom-shiny car body
filling with mirror-reversed Pure Oil logos, shimmers
of blue and white in twelve coats of pre-war lacquer.
Ear to the sun-warm Buick, it seems almost magical:
holding the Buckeye Iron & Brass nozzle, waiting

a series of dulcet whooshings of air in the tank neck.
Done wrong, a bucket of bees dispensed into a hive.
The sidemount reshapes his face in a bend of chrome.
A mannish face. Black, tossled hair. Something else.
The reason Nigger Fats, moonshiner, has asked for
“that little Bentley boy, what respects a wax job.”  end