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Ode to Gears
Dawn McGuire


I rarely see you anymore, even bikes
are going gearless, along with the gear-
grease wiped on jeans like forever stamps.
I miss the grease, no,
I miss the confidence that once again
the damn van will run.
Some bubblegum, a rubber band; rub
the dirty spark plugs on your pants, crawl
under the block, attitude-back the stripped
bolt, yank it out like a tooth. Rust flakes
drift down like dried blood.
Gears and grease
in the mnemic suitcase we carry,
still 19 and hungry, every part
of the one artichoke between us
consumed, still hungry, stirring
the morning’s ashes,
we’re walking on air like ashes.
The van did break
and the tent collapsed.
And weren’t we smooth
slipping from first to third
even without a clutch?
A continuum, we imagined;
in the inwardness,
in the eye of things,
we were quiet so as to know it.
We listened to nothing there
and prepared.

© by Dawn McGuire.
Used here with the author’s permission.


Dawn McGuire is a neurologist and neuroscientist, as well as the author of three collections of poetry. Her fourth, American Dream with Exit Wound, is scheduled for publication in March of 2017. A mother of two who lives in the San Francisco Bay area, Dawn’s motto for life comes from the ancient I Ching (Book of Changes): "Every reversal can be turned into an advance by reversing your goals.”


Post New Comment:
Hi, This poem is included in American Dream with Exit Wound. Copies are available now through the publisher at
Posted 03/14/2017 02:48 PM
Jim Ellis:
This is a brilliant poem, it's got humor and grit and tenderness and a haunting sense (to me anyway) of lost love, and gorgeous imagery and language - "attitude-back the stripped bolt" !! Wow. Thanks. Jim Ellis/Auburn NY
Posted 07/10/2016 06:12 AM
in the inwardness, in the eye of things is where this poem lives. Thanks, Dawn
Posted 07/08/2016 10:53 AM
Do you remember using an unwound coat hanger to lift a dragging exhaust pipe by hitching it to the fender? From a day when cars still had fenders. Great poem.
Posted 07/07/2016 05:50 PM
Lori Levy:
I can feel all that grease. Great poem. And I love your life motto.
Posted 07/07/2016 09:42 AM
Makes me ponder how many times we could do without that clutch... Thanks Dawn!
Posted 07/07/2016 07:30 AM
Larry Schug:
A moment of Zen realization, of "now-ness" captured in falling flakes of rust, stripped bolts and the beauty of being 19. Excellent poem.
Posted 07/07/2016 07:19 AM
Fully transported to the kingdom of gears & grease. This is a pure delight. Thanks, Dawn!
Posted 07/07/2016 06:40 AM

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