As a child I'd inhale deeply the scent of gasoline,
open the back seat window and lift my chin to the wind.
My life shone with petroleum products:
paint thinner, shoe polish, amber jars of shellac.
High test my father would order
and while we checked the mileage chart
fumes would enter our bodies, the lightness
burnishing our capillaries,
investing us with longing
for Rhode Island, Maine, Vermont.
For my birthday I asked for a sky blue bottle
of cologne, Eau de Esso;
but instead he brought me smoky gray glasses,
oven-ware plastic tubs, the limited time offer of nostalgia.
What I needed was a burning sense across my skin,
gas stains on my scarf.
In Gaza City, I found excuses
to frequent the "Gas Palace," the chrome pillars
rinsed in florescent greens and shades of blue.
I loved to watch the arched pumps with their reckless
slot machine eyes, their loaded guns.
My friend Amjad would fill the tank and sing a little to himself--
greet the employees smoking cigarettes
and fixing cars; men who worked extra hours,
their bodies like scraps of metal
taking their place among the stars.
I sent my father postcards edged in lighter fluid,
Greetings from Gaza no Quaker State, no bars.
Why mythologize bitter coffee
and squalid rest rooms?
BP for Niger, Senegal, and Mail.
I'd ride my mobilette up to the island,
uncap the tank. And more often times
than not, the sweet liquid would overflow
onto the body of my bike, splash
the braceleted knobs of my wrists,
and give the attendant and me
a soft rag of conversation.
A filling station. A place to to
to get filled up.
I miss the flying horse,
the nether worlds of Gulf and Texaco.
I miss the road maps, key chains, Rubbermaid cups;
the belief blossoming behind the words fill 'er up.
My father's world is gone now,
his body returning to the oil fields underground.
And to conjure him I breathe in
the dangerous, clock the miles to the gallon
before the needle stops traveling backward--falls
unencumbered, empty, lost.