Stretching over the carburetor,
he shouts about the quality of life here
compared to back home, how they stood
in line for bread, how there were no cedars
more green than those by the shore.
He could be my uncle in Syria, 1948,
a man taking in fumes, a cigarette balancing
on a fender, hands lined with grease,
saving coins in a jar for his newborn,
losing relatives to malaria, to civil war.
But today we’re in Hollywood—the palms
dry. This man speaks to me in Armenian.
He remembers working late into the Lebanese night,
the plaza’s noise of backgammon boards,
headlights beaming beyond the Mediterranean.
Now, he’s used to customers calling out
his American nickname, while he wrenches
spark plugs into place, the old country
preserved on a calendar. He’s used to this
new world of dollar bills, available parts.
I say bless him and this hand-made auto shop,
the first opening, closing of hoods, pump of pistons.
And bless the one who never made it over
the Atlantic, an arm extending into the engine,
a scar exposed, the shape of an eagle’s wing.
Copyright © 2011 Lory Bedikian. This poem originally appeared in The Book of Lamenting (Anhinga Press, 2011). Used with permission of the author.