Kate Learns to Drive

Thirty years alternating
clutch and accelerator
have rendered my driving placid.
I commute to Lowell knowing
nothing of what my feet have done.

Teaching Kate I am brought to awareness of this:
how my habits have sunk into animal knowledge,
padding their burrow, baring teeth
to strangers, guarding
their young.

I cannot teach this.
Once nested, they do not come
to my call, nor quietly
suffer inspection.

The Topaz pulls easily away from traffic,
smoothly into second
then third, swerves potholes,
accommodates impatience
with aplomb.  The back of my brain
is home for those habits.
They do not respond to my summons.

So I make do with only a slug of words
to instruct the young one, from scratch,
into an imitation of all this.

And the car bucks, won't go, leaps breakneck ahead of all others, stalls.
Starts.  Budges.  Clumps ahead a yard or so.
Takes speed finally, hesitates into second, oozes into third.
She's moving smooth now, but under tension,
more driven than driving yet,
as afraid to slow down as to accelerate.

Teaching?  When all I can say is relax, be cool, these things
will come with time?  When she is only a kind of damp
earth for her habits to be at home in?  And in the meantime,
only feed them well?

Copyright © Jim Michmerhuizen 1985