Saturday, Sept. 21, 2002, 12:50 PM

Summer city

Every morning my drive to work is interrupted
by the carcass of my muffler
decaying on the side of the road

And the closest I get to air conditioning
is the cold breath of the refrigerator sighing across my thighs,
smelling of week-old Chinese take-out
taking over.

And the heat is oppressive when you're driving a tin can in traffic
plagued by the thought of your road-kill muffler,
feverish with rust,
burning in the sun,
hotter than it ever got on those drives to Ashtabula

The bills won't allow the resurrection
of my exhausted pipe, and I tell myself
that it gives my Honda a throaty sound.
But myself knows it's closer to rheumatic

My apartment is more silent
since the Korean family next door
was deported in a flurry of footfalls
and a serenade of language
more alien to me than calculus

I miss the smell of those Korean dinners,
and girls
that would come to me in the hall
and tease me to respond
the way Pavlov would have liked