In the Garage on Jensen Street

I was gifted a 1976 banana yellow Buick Skylark back before I learned how to say no. My grandmother’s house needed to be sold. My father wanted the car to stay in the family, and I was in college without a car. We argued about it. I said it was too much. He disagreed.

Before making its way to me in the mountains of Appalachia, the car sat idle for decades in my grandparent’s garage. A large white steering, an old push button radio and two long white leather bench seats made up the interior. My parents hung a tropical air freshener from the rear view mirror to mask its musty, sat too long smell. They told me not to worry about the rusty trunk, but the mechanic who fixed the car for the second or third time in the couple months I owned it, told me whatever I put in the there would find its way onto the highway sooner than later.

I did love this car once, back when it lived in the Gleason’s garage on Jensen Street. Those days meant Grammie was squeezing us, frying hot dogs in butter, and there was plenty of Tropicana OJ, something Mom didn’t buy.

Twice a year we headed from Virginia to my grandparent’s house in West Hartford, Connecticut. My grandfather, paralyzed and no longer able to drive, sat in his brown recliner, while my grandmother, who was rarely able to leave the house, cared for him. Once in a while, my father took the Buick out for a drive, but mostly it lived in the stories he told. We’d laugh no matter how many times he said the car, once sky blue, was painted yellow when my grandmother forgot where she parked one too many times.

While my parents helped my grandparents and visited, my sister and I played in the deep New England snow, and in the summer walked to my father’s old elementary school hoping there were kids to play with on the playground. We watched hours of Madonna and Cindy Lauper on MTV, made up dances to Like a Virgin and Girls Just Wanta Have Fun way before we knew what the songs were about, and ate all our meals on TV trays. Sometimes I’d listen while my grandmother searched through the boxes she kept all the cards and letters she’d ever received. Too young to remember them, I loved the same stories, over and over again.

My love of my grandparents and her stories didn’t transfer to their actual car. Too big for my college’s tiny mountain streets and the fact I’d only had my license a year, I was as terrified to drive as I knew I’d be, sure it was a matter of time before I mowed someone down. Issue after issue, the yellow Buick and I spent a lot of time getting to know the town’s mechanics. Finally, after a couple of months mostly parked, I called my mother sobbing. Please just take this thing.

On the drive back to my parent’s home, the car’s brakes failed, relinquishing me of my guilt for not wanting the car. It was too much car for me and, truth be told, not something my father wanted sitting in his garage.

Dad sold it for a cent on eBay, back when eBay was new and allowed a person to undo that sort of thing. The man who eventually bought it wrote to say how much he enjoyed how well it drove. It was well cared for, he said.

We tried to keep it, take good care, but the truth is it wasn’t the car we ever wanted, not unless it was back, parked in the garage on Jensen Street.


How Things Continue


When I look at a maze, it reminds me of the brain; and the brain reminds me of the crevices of intestines.  The intestines reminds me of how we all are made.  Inside the “Lab for Anatomical Enlightenment” I saw my first well-dissected highway of intestines pulled out by the end like scarves from a magic hat.  Endless – draining.  Being in human cadaver lab was something as unlikely for me as skydiving, and yet….

Later that same afternoon, I sat in a dark bar with others ordering hamburgers as if nothing happened because that’s how things continue.  We go through the motions of regularity with the living until we believe them again, or forget it was any other way.   Our brain is a magical thing.

I did not know the first time, that I’d have to go back to the lab – but I dreaded it less.  The smell, less intoxicating – the table with dissected appendages almost approachable.   This brain too develops scars, callousing over perceptions with a thin layer of tough, because that’s how things continue.

In 1945 after WWII, my grandmother was displaced from her home in Czechoslovakia – and transported to Germany with her family in a livestock train car.  At the intern camp, with hundreds of others they were stripped, deloused and fed blood sausages waiting for somewhere to live.  She tells me, ‘never look back.’  Because that’s how things continue.

Allison for the PGM


I Cast My Lot

As I step out beneath planets and stars,
Mars and Venus,
the familiar Big Dipper,
and the twinkle, twinkle little pinpricks
of the unnamed millions,
I fill my pockets with diamond dust
and feel the whole world open up—
a cosmic book of poetry
with no beginning and no end,
singing possibilities,
freedom, mystery,
laying down new rhythms and rhymes
in my heart and mind,
bestowing permission from gods
and goddesses of universal love
to be true to myself,
my thoughts, my feelings.

Doubts that have been quashed
for way too many years
rear up like wild ponies,
leave me standing in the spin
of unbridled liberty—
nearly throw me off balance
in the dizzying magnitude
of the uncharted space
they open up.

Then I race to catch up,
rise weightless and soaring
above gravity’s pull,
above small-minded certainty
and the safety of dos and don’ts,
into the vast ambiguity of my place
in the universe—
(as much as one can know such things)
that my place could be any place,
hooked to any one of these stars,
as close as the Milky Way’s beguiling path
or traveling through darkness
beyond nothingness.

As I step out beneath planets and stars,
I recognize my own star stuff,
cut the ropes that bind my wings,
and cast my lot with diamond dust.

                                                 Glenda Breeden (Oct. 2016) for The Poplar Grove Muse