Mystery Man

He fixed cars in a garage
                 like a surgeon
he cut away the damaged
and replaced it
with new
                shinny parts.

like the picture I have,
he put on a mask and
sprayed sharp scented paint
over the body.
His breath was as labored
as the work he did.
                    forty-five years later,
I wake in the night smelling the spray.

When he was finished
the car would be like new. –
a work of art,
And then he drank
                      and drank
until no one knew him,
not even me.

He went to church, too.
He carried the plate
                    and collected the money.
I watched from my mother’s pew,
                    where all the women
                               and kids sat.
I watched and wished
I was  a man and
could sit where he sat and
do what he did.
I watched him sing
                                  raising his head
                                  from time to time
                                  to look straight at the song leader.
I even watched him pray and
once he said “Amen” out loud
in the middle of the service.
When I did it people laughed and
my mother carried me outside
to spank me.
I never understood why.

On a motorcycle,
                               in another picture I have,
he smiles
                                broad teeth shining
holding me on the big leather seat,
because I was to young to ride.

He farmed
rode horses
fed chickens and
loved woolly dogs.
I did too.

Then, before I ever really knew him,
he went away
in the driveway
of that old garage.

I’ll always wonder
who he really was,
but one thing I know I,
wanted to be just like him
but I never was.

Tony Sexton