Julie Price Pinkerton's "Why I Opted for the More Expensive Oil at Jiffy Lube"
It’s not often that a poet gets paid for her work, or featured in her hometown newspaper, but Champaign-Urbana’s Julie Price Pinkerton recently accomplished both achievements in one fell swoop. Julie’s poem, “Veins,” won the 2016 Rattle Poetry Prize, which earned her 10,000 big ones. Not bad for a single poem.
Of course, the sad truth is that most poets and most writers toil away for years, even decades, without earning squat for their troubles. That’s why so many of us have to work other jobs, too. In Julie’s case, she teaches here at the University of Illinois, where she’s won many awards for her teaching. She’s also come close to winning prizes for her writing before—she’s been nominated a couple of times for the coveted Pushcart Prize. But this prize from Rattle is her first real win.
If you want to read her prize-winning poem, you’ll have to buy a copy of Rattle, which you can find on their website at http://www.rattle.com/. Today I’m going to read you another poem, which beautifully captures her voice—ironic, witty, hopeful, wistful. The poem begins with the mundane, travels through hilarious fantasy, and finishes on a sober and deeply mournful note. It’s called “Why I Opted For The More Expensive Oil At Jiffy Lube” and first appeared in Rattle as well, back in 2014.
Here it is,
Why I Opted for the More Expensive Oil at Jiffy Lube
This one is better for a car as old as yours, he says.
It won’t glob up, he says. And spring is almost here,
so of course you need a thicker oil.
And I say, So with this good oil my car will run better
and it’ll be washed and waxed every time I get in it?
Yes, he says. And you’ll never have to put another drop of gas in it.
And when I start the car, a big bag of money will appear in the back seat?
Yes, he says. And cash will shoot out your exhaust pipe
and people will be glad when they see you coming.
And will I look rested? Like I’ve gotten plenty of sleep every night?
That goes without saying, he says.
And when I roll over in bed and look at the man
who says he loves me, will I finally believe he loves me?
You, he says, won’t be able to believe anything else. Your heart
will soak up the goodness and you will smile and beam and sigh
like a pig in mud.
And what about my parents? I ask. Will this oil keep them from dying?
They’re very old.
Let’s call them and tell them the happy news, he says.
You can find “Why I Opted For The More Expensive Oil At Jiffy Lube” in Rattle #40, published in 2014. You can listen to Julie reading this poem herself on Rattle’s website at www.rattle.com.