Grand Opening on Commercial Avenue
White canvas tarps cover the day’s labor,
paint guns and tool boxes tucked away.
Cars pose along the east wall, noses pointing north,
the proud Mustang raised just a bit higher.
Spit-clean and spotless, The E & S Auto Body Shop.
You could eat a meal off this floor.
Some children will.
Tonight, rented tables, eight chairs each, Winnie-the-Pooh balloons.
Add three broad boards stretched across sawhorses
sagging with chicken, rice, beef, beans, bread and more rice.
The service counter this night swept free of estimates,
work orders, insurance forms, transformed to a full bar,
nothing held back, bottles set for function, not for show.
Steel buckets burst with ice, beer, soda.
A body shop makes a good dance hall.
Cavernous. It is an aircraft carrier.
Giant speakers blast from all corners.
Lights flash and rotate, machine fog shimmers in the glow.
Three, four, five languages. Owners old and new.
One babe in arms, clutching with both hands
her very first pink plastic bottle,
her wide eyes dilating beneath pure ebony lashes.
Her perfect white shoes could hang
from the mirror of a cherry ’57 Chevy.
Three, four, five languages.
Hablando de Puebla. And Seoul. Calexico. Long Beach.
New owners from Mexico. Old owners, new friends: Korea.
Borders and oceans in the self-same breath.
Kids scramble like puppies,
pinballing into soft aunts, laughing uncles, hard walls,
stopped only by exhaustion, swooped up and tucked into corners,
blanketed under winter coats.
Adults dance. Teens kiss. Adults kiss. Teens dance.
Y todos estan hablando.
It’s a sound stage now.
Hollywood could shoot a movie, MTV a video.
But Monday, back to a body shop, Quality on Commercial Avenue.
Tonight we speak of Puebla, and Seoul. Tonight we dance. Tonight we kiss.
Puebla remains 2300 miles away, and that’s just in miles.
Hablando de Puebla, y bailando, y besando. Y esperando.
by Tony Press
Editor’s Note: Some say a picture is worth a thousand words, but this poem’s words create pictures worth a boxful of photos—each one layered on the next, threaded with relationships that no mere image could achieve alone.
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