Close-up of a metal axle.

My ancestors worked carriage repair—the mechanics
of their day. Car, after all, is short for carriage and in

the Spanish of the island they worked on, coche is car
and coach. So it is with machines—they are all

metaphors, figures for the denizens of the natural
world, its forces, or other machines. My father was

a mechanical engineer. He built machines that sorted
and sealed things. He drove the same machine

for twenty-five years to and from other machines
like planes and elevators and escalators and micro-

waves. In the last picture I saw of the car the back
was gone all the way to the axle. In the front seat

there was the heaviest nothing between the seat
and the sun-soaked steering wheel with its neatly

undeployed airbag. And I wanted so badly for some
wisp or phantom, some echo of my father that would

ache less than all this absence. I hummed a driving
song of his. I held his watch. I made this new machine

to teach me there is no difference between a wish
and a ghost.

Photo by rachelvoorhees, used and adapted under CC.