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MacQueen’s Quinterly: Knock-your-socks-off Art and Literature
Issue 10: October 2021
Poem: 265 words
By Bill Mohr

The Timing Chains

Ever had the accelerator 
go flat to the car floor 
and leave you gliding 
on the road, your arm 
thrusting out the window 
and your hand wiggling 
desperately to show you 
need to move two lanes over 
now? And your car has just 
enough momentum to get 
between two cars next to you 
and the three that are coming 
up fast. Your foot is still 
hopefully on the accelerator 
as you gaze at an offramp 
a hundred yards away. 
Neutral hope, the only kind 
that gets you through a day 
at work. Neither of us earned 
what our work should’ve paid: 
you didn’t tell me you had less 
withheld from your paycheck 
just to get through, and then 
I borrowed for income tax. 
Your father died, and you 
promised to use the inheritance 
to pay the debt. The money 
came in and you kept it 
for yourself. I never knew 
how you spent it, just that 
it was gone, and we were broke. 
The mechanic we towed the car to 
worked at home in his driveway. 
“It’s probably a timing chain,” 
he said. “It happens all 
the time with this model.” 
He sipped at his cold bottle 
and offered me one. “No, not 
this early.” By Monday morning, 
the car was fixed. “It’s so much 
trouble to get to the timing chain 
that I changed both of them,” 
he said. I hadn’t known 
they were a pair. The bill 
was higher than I expected, 
but at least I knew we wouldn’t stall 
on the freeway in a lane 
we couldn’t escape from. 

Bill Mohr
Issue 10, October 2021

holds a Ph.D. in Literature from the University of California, San Diego and has taught 20th-century American literature and creative writing at California State University, Long Beach since 2006. In previous decades he primarily worked as a blueprint machine operator, bureaucratic paper-pusher, and typesetter. From 1972 to 1988 he was also the editor and publisher of Momentum Press, the archives of which are held at UCSD. In addition to publishing two landmark anthologies of Los Angeles poets, The Streets Inside: Ten Los Angeles Poets (1978) and Poetry Loves Poetry: An Anthology of Los Angeles Poets (1985), he brought out books by poets such as Alicia Ostriker, Jim Krusoe, Holly Prado, Kate Braverman, Jim Moore, Harry Northup, Joseph Hansen, and Leland Hickman. In 2015, he co-edited Cross-Strokes: Poetry Between Los Angeles and San Francisco.

Mohr’s poems, prose poems, and creative prose have appeared in a multitude of magazines, including 5AM, Antioch Review, Blue Collar Review, Blue Mesa Review, Caliban (on-line), Invisible City, KYSO Flash, Miramar, Santa Monica Review, Skidrow Penthouse, Sonora Review, Upstreet, and ZYZZYVA, as well as in more than a dozen anthologies. His writing has been translated into Spanish, Italian, Japanese, and Croatian. His scholarly publications include a critically acclaimed literary history of West Coast poetry, Holdouts: The Los Angeles Poetry Renaissance 1948-1992 (University of Iowa, 2011).

Author’s blog on poetry, culture, art, and politics: www.billmohrpoet.com

Author’s website: koankinship.com

More on the Web: By, About, and Beyond

Why the Heart Never Develops Cancer, a poem by Mohr in Luvina; two-minute video reading at YouTube by www.Poetry.LA (May 2010)

Three Poems in Moonday, Moonday Poetry (2006); includes “Naked Chef,” “Your Skin,” and “Big Band, Slow Dance”

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