This seventh installment features John Beaton’s “Valet Parking.” The poem is at once delightfully hyperbolic and a plausible depiction of the toxic masculinity we’ve come to associate with high-rolling leaders in all walks of life. “Valet Parking” also enacts a cultural revenge fantasy in the second person–positioning readers to watch, judge, and unexpectedly identify with the downfall of a man who ostensibly differs so much from us.
Lamborghinis, Maseratis, Jaguars, and Beemers,
Aston Martins, Morgans, Bentleys, Ferraris slick and sleek—
your car makes you superior to your sandal-slapping neighbor
who scrubs his Saab religiously on the Saab-bath day each week.
You drive to where you’re worshiped, to the Hilton or Umberto’s,
up to the altar where they bow—your alter ego’s waiting
to touch the throaty thoroughbred with which you’ve graced his chancel.
You leave it idling, sidle past, and bask in his adulating.
Your back’s turned and his foot’s down. Yes! It’s right down to the floor,
but only for a hundred yards—this isn’t Arizona.
Tires screech in yawing fishtail swerves, which scare him to a crawl—
but now that thrill will always bless his econobox persona.
Now he can dream of being you, of pedal to the metal
of scorching down the carriageway—a hundred and fifty or bust,
head braced against the G-force, hood pointed to the skyline,
wheels sprinting from their haunches in one great macho thrust.
Look at you, your car… shows people your ascendancy.
Look at you, your car… shows people that you’re rich.
Look at him you paupers, yes, you sorry bunch of losers,
other men are winners, be reminded which is which.
This miracle of metal shouts aloud that you wield power,
responsive without question to your each and every whim.
You’ve never comprehended it; you’ve never justified it;
you came, you saw, you purchased it with money that you skim.
Let lesser people toil and sweat. You organize their labor.
It’s you who makes the deals unfold. You’re their wherewithal.
You’re the source of capital that oils the wheels of commerce;
and you’re the one who stands to take the Humpty Dumpty fall.
Forget about your marriage bed, whose four posts once were goalposts.
A man like you can’t help being bored by children and a wife;
but you have lots of love to give to a sylph who wants to live
with the glow of money’s golden light upon her early life.
And now it’s time to leave the bar, call back your missile car
from your valet-parking vassal, fresh from one last vroom.
You give your leggy pick-up a feel, and turn that leather wheel.
Will you go home now to your wife, a hotel, or to your doom?
You’re home’s on the other side of town. Your Siren slides around.
Your business is bust—you laugh—then push your right foot down.
The hydro poles are not impressed, the trees wave in distress,
and your woman of the night with her golden hair wears a stricken frown.
You’re on a Himalayan mountain in the sweetest gear,
revs roaring in the tailpipe’s bark. Your face has turned to stone;
you crash with panache and a sense of style as music soothes the sounds
of the crushing of muscle and internal organs, and bone and the cellular phone.
You drove yourself to fly at speed beneath the sky’s wide ceiling
in a svelte exotic that exudes a valet-parking feeling.
But here, outside this last resort, on the final esplanade,
you’ve parked without attendant, and grossly overstayed.
John Beaton’s poetry is entirely metrical and has been widely published in media as diverse as Able Muse, Gray’s Sporting Journal, and Northwards Now (UK). He lives on Vancouver Island BC.