Every summer the car rolls over a degree
Or two more revealing green limits to heat
Like the dance, you meet your wife
At after the war where bayonet wounds,
Bits of rock and bone worn in an opaque
Line under the rib cage affect how high
You can lift your arms for her to spin.

Deep in the warm heart of the river a boy
Gives up god and who can say when it happened.
Oil rises in the sump pan. It is strong and dark
With thought. Someone in a house nearby,
On the edge of town, stirs tea.
Without peering into the cup they can tell,
Perfectly, when to drink.

Broken by sleep, between the non-committal
Clouds – some Turner, some Van Gogh, some Streeton –
A drunk sits on Citadel Avenue.
There is an equation he is working on as he watches
A buck goat drink its own piss
And must, likewise, begin again, the calculation.

You don’t know if you have ever quite absorbed
It but the wheels inch forward nonetheless
With a surreptitious lurch, so that, in full
View of the shift worker walking blindly,
His dog wandering, cutting off talk
Mid-conversation, evidence against inertia is scant.

The chassis, the tail light, the deteriorating black
Hoses, the exhaust, and suspension prefer their own
Body. They are content, happy even, to be left
In such a place. And remember, over the viaduct,
We found that note in a green liquor bottle and laughed.
What it said, exactly, escapes me now.

Did we live together at all? Will the old wrecked Ford
One day make it to the river, return
To the long-necked turtle and catfish?
What happened to the father, the son
Who left the car abandoned? There is a willow
Un-fished that holds them. It is still.

About the Poem

The poem is in part a reflection on my own childhood and teenage years when I bought my first car which my father accidentally damaged because the handbrake didn’t work properly. This image I use to consider the frozen and crippled state of family units (particularly in view of fatherhood). Of course, this is a protracted problem and not necessarily the fault of anyone, however, it is an issue that is dear to me and one which runs beneath many of the other challenges facing modern societies. It is also a comment on our reluctance to engage maturely in thoughtful conversation about what Edmund Burke nominates as the fabric of society,’ Little Platoons’.

About the Author

Glenn McPherson is a Sydney-based poet and teacher. He has been widely published in Australian Journals and Anthologies. In 2022, he featured in the Newcastle Prize and ACU Poetry Prize Anthology, and was published in the Best of Australian Poetry 2022. In 2023, he was a finalist in the Gwen Harwood Poetry Competition and Shortlisted for the South Coast Writers Poetry Prize; published in Topical Poetry Journal, and InDaily/Poets Corner

1 thought on “Handbrake”

  1. There is a silence now about those eternal values from God , passed on from fathers to son , as if somehow we deluded and despondent think we can leave them and deny ourselves of those in the past.

    Handbrakes are helpful in slowing down empty pursuits sought in an attempt to relate and connect.

    Without them we are left and swept along going to destruction.

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