Wednesday, November 7, 2007

A Sort of Poem

This started as an essay following a brief visit to Los Angeles. But somewhere along the way it morphed into more of a poem. The main problem (for me) is the ending. The piece feels incomplete, like it needs some kind of profound or clever thought to tie it all up. I don't know. [Edit: The last two lines were added to fix this problem. It's better, but...]

Since I admire Greg Luce's courage in putting his poems out there for comments and suggestions, I'm doing the same with this one, so have at it if you care to.


Exhaust fumes rise and swirl, merging with the sea mist
The rumble of the surf is overmatched by the growl of engines and the steady hum of tires on pavement

Every vehicle in this town seems to have tinted windows, as if every driver has something to hide

For decades, this place has been called a car culture, which may be a slight understatement
At least one third of the land area in the county is paved, habitable only by vehicles parked or looking for a place to park or on their way to or from a parking place
Pedestrians are rare, and half of them are panhandlers working the exit ramps

They’re saving the fruits of their begging to buy cars

The carcasses of worn out tires pile up in ravines
Huge ships crisscross the oceans hauling cars and car parts and oil
Acres of buildings are devoted to car insurance companies, car repair shops, highway engineers, car rental agencies, chop shops, race tracks, junkyards, DMV offices, car dealers, gas stations, courtrooms jammed with traffic offenders and jail cells with car thieves, emergency rooms, lawyers’ offices

It is a ceaseless, merciless hammering of our senses, yet we cannot seem to quit

We are drawn to the sounds of our own undoing, like the citizens inside a walled city mesmerized by the beat of Attila's battering ram


Pastoral, yes?


Bleeet said...

Now that's some funny shit. And I mean that in the most Á„∏∏͉∏ way possible.

Greg said...

A poem-essay...nicely done! Has a sort of Whitmanesque feel only with contemporary language. (And thanks for still more kind words!)

Rob Hardy said...

I like it. I often find that something that starts life as one thing (an essay) ends up as something else (a poem). This works well as a poem. I do agree, though, that the ending needs more work and/or inspiration. It feels as if, after revving up throughout the poem, you finally just run out of gas. I find endings to be the hardest part, too. I'm constantly going back and working on them.

Jim H. said...

The ending is better, if a touch overwrought.

Thanks for the comments.

Rob Hardy said...

As you said: better, but... The problem now, I think, is that you leave the very concrete and immediate world of the rest of the poem and enter the world of simile and metaphor, which seems out of place to me in this poem. How can you maintain the great energy and concreteness of the poem, without tying it up too neatly or too metaphorically?

Jim H. said...


Agreed. Back to the keyboard!

I'm trying for something like Ed Dorn's compact phrase describing part of the scene as he drives down 101 from Los Angeles to San Francisco: "the ceaseless jets of Miramar." I guess I should look at his "101" poems again and capture that tone.