Demolition Derby

by Carrie Jerrell

His ’89 Impala ran four minutes
before two tires blew and I became
the candy stuck in a steel piñata, scared shit-
less but falling for the spinouts,
the gut punch of the rush, the airbrushed flames.
I learned from him how to bend with broadside hits
and, when caught in the metal’s grip, to get unhooked.
I didn’t mind smashed fingers, busted lips,
or blues the morning after, the smell of cooked
rubber in my curls and his bent-fender
smile at the breakfast table. These days I strip
the cars myself, a singular contender,
unable to shake off that first race, that boy,
winking as he strapped me in and sent me chasing
after more than just a crush. I need a decoy,
a partner, a well-tempered alloy to keep from placing
last in every heat, but behind me lie
deep ruts from spinning endless figure eights,
double-clutching, and flashing the driver’s side,
while in the grandstand crowd, the next man waits
to pick my pieces off this track where spattered mud
across my shirt dries hard and stains like blood.

Carrie Jerrell is the author of the book After the Revival, 2008 winner of the Anthony Hecht Poetry Prize. She received her MA from the Writing Seminars at Johns Hopkins University and her PhD in English from Texas Tech University, where she was honored as a Chancellor’s Fellow. Currently, she is an assistant professor of English and associate director of the MFA program at Murray State University in Murray, Kentucky.