Ofelia Drives Too Far
Ofelia Drives Too Far
by Alexandra Teague
As far as I know this is from the original campaign
"Let Texaco put a tiger in your tank" from the late 1960s.
I have no reason to think it came from any place else.
-Ebay post for Texaco Tiger Tail
Even if the tattooed teardrop on the guy
pumping her gas most likely means murder,
it makes her want him to hang up the nozzle and cry
right here with her in the Cheetos-dry diesel-fume air
at how messed up this world is: the real tigers tucked
into tanks labeled Zoo and Extinction and Fair
Trade—4% of the proceeds of each chocolate bar will fix up
the rainforests; it’s all organic crunch; it’s just half an hour’s pay—
and the Gulf still stripey with oil and the bad luck
of fishing when the ocean is a Truth or Dare game
everyone keeps choosing Dare in. I dare you to drill
into your bones in search of oil; drill your own face
in search of tears. She needs to park her car and sell
its tires for swings for children, but gas is cheap
this summer; she’s never seen the Grand Canyon: a well
deep enough to drop wonder in and still dream
you’ll slosh it back up in an old-fashioned bucket,
take a long, clean drink. She has no reason to believe
the teardrop means anything but the world is fucked so fuck it,
to think he lies awake reading about fish
born in the Gulf with no eyes—a modern-day Huck Finn
in a country that’s not river and hope but the lick
of gas down every kind of tinder. What other adventure
are they promised? Put a tiger in your tank. Forget its
yowl, the news even as it comes on the radio, shifting over
to the country station—There’s a light at the end of the tunnel
and it’s neon—all the good puns that make it easier
to believe the world’s just a little inside out, a little
the way-you-move-girl-it’ll-be-alright, and who doesn’t
need that? With these hundred-proof memories, you can’t tell
thinking from driving. No that’s not it. You can’t
think and drive. But she is or she’s going to—his squeegee
swiping the screen of her own drive-in movie: dirt
in all the corners of the action but the stars still pretty
like GMO tomatoes—no bees; botox for ripeness.
She’s Thelma plus Louise; he’s permanent pity:
polar bears swigging corn syrup on floes of ice.
Sugar is expensive. It’s urban legend: sugar
will stop an engine. Does anything? Why not confess:
she likes the burn of the safety pins at her shoulders
where they hold up her dress straps—so much sun
even in Oregon. How many tigers per dollar?
Is it still blood money if it smells alive with pollen
and summer and she’s overtipping—her tank
brimming as though what’s natural is carrying on.
How many cents for fear? For thanks?
Wild Country is static now. She’s singing anyway.
Once you’re driven crazy, who’s gonna drive you back?
Alexandra Teague is the author of the novel The Principles Behind Flotation (Skyhorse 2017) and two poetry books—The Wise and Foolish Builders (Persea 2015) and Mortal Geography (Persea 2010), winner of the Lexi Rudnitsky Prize and the 2010 California Book Award. A former NEA and Stegner fellow, she is currently an associate professor at University of Idaho.