Prayer on a Morning My Car Wouldn’t Start

Every day more petitions to sign, (I first typed “to sigh.”), more meetings, more good caring people doing all they can, more information that sinks the soul, more cruelty, more letters to write, calls to make. Let alone dinner.

Within it all, our own lives deserve attention: our friends who are carrying burdens too heavy for them alone to lug, our own. And then along come the unexpected situations that we simply have to take care of, and we try to think of them as small in comparison, but dammit, they do us in–the straws that break our own backs.

Over the weekend our washing machine broke down! AND WITH LAUNDRY SOAKING IN IT! AND WE COULDN’T OPEN THE DAMN DOOR TO GET IT OUT AND SO WE JUST KNEW THAT IT WOULD START GROWING SOME FUNGUS THAT WOULD THEN TAKE OVER THE HOUSE AND WE WOULD NEVER BE ABLE TO LIVE HERE EVER AGAIN!

Then on Monday Mary Jo and Craig and Bob said, “We’ll be right over.” And they repaired the machine and the laundry was saved and we calmed. Ain’t that the way!

Here’s a poem/prayer/plea/lament for such times–

Prayer on a Morning My Car Wouldn’t Start

I sit behind the wheel
and finger the keys
like a rosary. Surely

there is some prayer
that can move pistons.
If spirits slaughter germs, or

bring about a sudden burst
of hope or courage, even love,
why not something simple,

something closer to expedience?
Why not dispatch one lonely angel
to caress my carburetor, fix

my fan belt, unclog my fuel line?
Just one greasy-winged mechanic,
inept at saving souls, but damned

good at getting me on my way.

–Jack Ridl

First published in the Laurel Review
Subsequently in The Same Ghost (Dawn Valley Press) (Out of print, but don’t let the used-book tag scare you to pieces, these poems will be collected or reprinted elsewhere soonly!)
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24 thoughts on “Prayer on a Morning My Car Wouldn’t Start

  1. I just have to say — this is one of my all-time favorite poems. I remember you reading it and, Catholic that I am, the image of fingering the keys like a rosary comes to me often. I even stole the image for opening a poem I wrote when my youngest was in the hospital:
    “In the dark a nurse
    bends over a tangle of tubes
    fingering clips and valves like a rosary,
    gently, quietly, reverently”

    You see, Jack, your poetry is part of me!

  2. How lovely to read your poem this morning – fingering the keys as if it were a rosary! Yes indeed. And your comments before the poem. Yes so may phone calls, meetings, and then taking up pen and paper to engage words spilling up from the soul, a never-quenched fountain, no matter how much the Quenchers try to stifle. And here is the rule: washing machines ALWAYS and without fail stop when there is laundry in them and the safety mechanism won’t let the door unlatch. Almost worst than Bannon and “t” and Sessions all together! Thinking of you and so glad mildew and mold have not taken over.

    • Yes, so true. They always break down with clothes in ’em. Of course they do! Who the hell would run one just
      to watch it spin????? Duh me!
      Your metaphor is great! I love it, how the three of those thugs won’t let any good door unlatch. Brilliant!
      I know you are tireless. An inspiration in the deepest sense of the word. (I first typed “world.” That fits, too!)
      XOXO

  3. oooooohhhhhh yes yes yes yes- as my husband lovingly, carefully followed me to the auto service this morning to drop off my car for a time-to-be-determined – this poem / prayer was rolling through my mind

  4. 2 weeks and $160 later our front loader was repaired….not to mention, crawling around on the floor to figure out the draining system and gravity so we could open the door….and remove the wet clothing to take elsewhere for spinning and drying…I empathize with your washer woes! Give me a top loading Speed Queen!!! All this from our basement apartment as we go into month 4 waiting for fire damage repairs at home….it has been a long several months…..Ginny But look forward to Thursdays because of you, dear Jack.

    • Oh my. That’s so much worse. Ours was nothing compared to that: It’s Job trying to do laundry!
      And you guys. What a nightmare. Truly. At our age, you should be on the deck painting and playing
      a concerto for one violin and playing with grandkids all at once. So so sorry. Really now–this sucks.
      At the same time, I’m heartened to hear that you look forward to the Thursday visits. Means a lot, a whole lot!
      XOXO

  5. Just read this poem out loud to LARRY as we travel on one of those family missions – my sister needs a lot of help just now. Hopefully back in two days with her electricity working and perhaps the clutter cleaned up. Peace and love – Jane

    Jane Dickie

    >

    • Sigh. It’s all simply too hard. How do we do it? You and Larry have been
      rescuers all your days. And you still have that bell of a laugh! What
      a gift you two are to million: some know you; many do not.
      Love, peace, joy too
      Jack

  6. This brings to mind those frantic before school mornings when I’d utter fervent prayers for misplaced socks and shoes. Items that seemed unworthy of prayer, but I knew it was about so much more.
    I so appreciate these weekly messages and poems that remind me there is balance and richness alive in the world.

    • Hi Betsy,
      Yes, yes, oh my yes!! Around this house an often heard query is, “Have you seen my . . .?”
      Means a lot that you appreciate the Thursday visits. A whole lot. Without being told, there’s no way to know if it matters or not.
      So—–THANK YOUUUUUU!
      XOXO
      Jack

    • Sigh. Tis not truly a prayer, but a lament, but then again, a lament is most certainly a prayer.
      Here’s to all things good and kind,
      Jack

  7. Jack,
    It is amazing how much comfort your words bring me every week. After fighting tirelessly to stop a bill that would allow wolves and grizzly bears to be killed in their dens with young. Our Senate approved the bill. Just like your washing machine I cried and now am writing to 52 senators to remind them all we are stewards of this precious planet. Thank you for showing me that life goes on.
    Fondly,
    Cheryl

    • Really, Cheryl, how do they live with themselves??? Or maybe you and I are more bewildered that they can. Sigh.
      Living with heartbreak takes a toll on us. Life goes on as you say and we stagger along with it trying to hold
      fast to one another and to what matters so very much. You are a loving inspiration. To think that I’m bringing
      you comfort comforts this heart.
      Ever grateful for you.
      XOXO
      Jack

  8. Just wanted to say thank you for adding beauty and compassion through this project. This poem resonated with me, too, this week–all the big and little burdens we all carry. So glad for how poetry and art can connect all of us, and make it all smaller and grander at the same time 🙂

    • Norissa,
      I want to thank you! Your message lifted this heart, filled it, warmed it. There’s no way of knowing if the project is doing good unless told. For you to
      tell me helps so much, so very much. You sentence about connection/smaller/grander is a marvel. Thank you. Thank you soooooo much.
      XOXO
      Jack

  9. Thursday is my Sunday is Ridl-day!!!

    Boy, these are good poems for hard times, as Garrison Keillor would say. Thank you so much, Jack. If you and Julie ever make it to Tübingen, Germany, which I really hope, I owe more than beer.

    Just this morning my wife and I prayed for a mercyful angel who would find the new white and of course very cool must-socks of our 16 year old daughter!

    You are a blessing for this weird world and for me!

    With love
    Norbert

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