Starting the Subaru at Five Below

By Stuart Kestenbaum

After 6 Maine winters and 100,000 miles,

when I take it to be inspected

I search for gas stations where they

just say beep the horn and don’t ask me to


put it on the lift, exposing its soft

rusted underbelly. Inside is the record

of commuting: apple cores, a bag from

McDonald’s, crusted Dunkin’ Donuts cups,

a flashlight that doesn’t work and one

that does, gas receipts blurred beyond


recognition. Finger tips numb, nose

hair frozen, I pump the accelerator

and turn the key. The battery cranks,

the engine gives 2 or 3 low groans and

starts. My God it starts. And unlike

my family in the house, the job I’m


headed towards, the poems in my briefcase,

the dreams I had last night, there is

no question about what makes sense.

White exhaust billowing from the tail pipe,

heater blowing, this car is going to

move me, it’s going to take me places.

Take Heart: A Conversation in Poetry is produced in collaboration with the Maine Writers & Publishers Alliance. Poem copyright © 2010 Stuart Kestenbaum. Reprinted from “Maine in Four Seasons,” Down East Books, 2010, by permission of Stuart Kestenbaum. Questions about submitting to Take Heart may be directed to Gibson Fay-LeBlanc, at or 228-8263. “Take Heart: Poems from Maine,” an anthology collecting the first two years of this column, is now available from Down East Books.

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