SELF-PORTRAIT, NUDE WITH STEERING WHEEL
I am forty-five and do not
Know how to drive a car
– And you tell me I am cultured.
Forty-five years creeping and crawling about the earth,
Going up and down the world,
And I do not know the difference between a carburettor and a gasket
– And you tell me I am a Homo sapiens.
Forty-five years sitting in the back seat giving directions
– And you say that I am not an egoist.
Forty-five years sitting in the passenger seat
With my hands folded primly in my lap
– And you think I am liberated.
Forty-five years getting in and out of cars
And I do not know where the dipstick is
– And you tell me that I am a superb lover.
Forty-five years grovelling behind a windscreen
– And you talk of my pride and courage and self-reliance.
Forty-five years of not knowing the meaning of words
Like transmission, clutch, choke, battery, leads
– And you say that I am articulate.
Forty-five years bumming lifts off other people –
And you tell me I am an independent, solitary, romantic spirit.
So it is that you find me tonight
Loitering here outside your front door
Having paid off a taxi in three ten-pound notes,
Nude, with a steering wheel in my hands.
Ruth Padel, 52 Ways of Looking at a Poem: A Poem for Every Week of the Year (London: Vintage, 2004), 219.