The Repair Shop on 7th

16 July 2018:

The shiny-headed men waiting at the repair shop on 7th, living their retired life in Montana, still come in exclaiming things like “Oh, it’s Monday again ain’t it.”

I come in bright and early before work for a quick oil change to sit in the waiting area and eat the free donuts and drink the free coffee and write down the things they say. Things like, “Oh, it’s Monday again ain’t it.”

Many a morning and many hours, waiting with the waiting at the repair shop, fingers crossed the mechanics don’t find something worse than the problem I came in with.

I’ll tell you this: a handful of poems have come out of these cool and sunny dawns. There’s something about the patience of it all. Something about the locals. Something about the old black-and-white photos on the wall of Bozeman in the 30s.

That street corner there, look, where those old gas pumps gleam—can you tell me where that is?

Sometimes I can piece enough clues together to know what I am looking at. Sometimes a poem grows out of mystery and ends in heart. Sometimes it grows the other direction.

The repair shop on 7th, I believe, lends itself to both, any given day, any given week.

Today is Monday again (ain’t it), and the morning traffic funnels through town, passing the new motel, passing half a dozen pawn shops. Travis is the owner’s name too, so I hear my name all morning as he makes business calls from the back. Customers come and go, in and out of the door that chimes. The shiny-headed men walk a slow path between the coffee maker and the window, keeping an eye on their truck and making small talk with Travis.

Despite the line of cars in the parking lot, no one here is hurried or worried about anything. At all.

So I try the same.

I open up a new book of poems I bought last week: North American Stadiums. A recent Wallace Stegner fellow, Grady Chambers, he wrote it.

And in my reading of it, in the middle of a Monday morning, with the chimes and dings and grinds of the repair shop on 7th, the narrator in Grady’s poem, “The Life,” is asked who he loves at the end of a long and rolling poem, moving through Cleveland, Chicago, Milwaukee and most of the Midwest. The narrator, throwing his hands up to form a “horseshoe shadow,” exclaims the simplest, best response: “this,” he says, “all this.”

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