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Third Gear, Second Gear, First Gear

Maybe it’s the change in weather, maybe it’s the change in age, but lately, I’ve been feeling sorta poetic. Tonight I boiled savoy cabbage for dinner, and I wanted to, like, write couplets — either about the various shades of green that the leaves turned, or about the banality of boiled cabbage, or both, if I can muster the talent:

An emerald head in the bubbling pot
Promises satiety, or maybe not.

WHEW. That felt good.That was the first bit of poetry that I’ve written since last October. What happened in October? Why, I bought a car. And as sexy as the Jetta TDI is, it has simply siphoned my creative juices like so much ultra-low sulfur diesel fuel.

Not that I was ever a prolific or serious poet, but once upon a time I did feel moved to construct verse out of the random words and phrases that nagged my brain. So what gives with the poetry drought, brain?

Well, my commute used to involve roughly 4 miles walking (round-trip) during which my brain bantered with itself about infinite truths and eternal recurrences, plus eight subway stops during which my eyes meditated upon seemingly nothing but plutocrats and derelicts. For Boston is a town of nothing but.

All of which was highly conducive to poetry. Look at William Wordsworth — “I wandered lonely as a cloud” — a notorious walker who frequently embarked on 15-mile sojourns during which he would not only “mine poetic materials,” but also engage in “purposiveness without purpose,” (here) an active mindset that is perhaps congenial to the creative process, depending on if you don’t think Kant is full of philosophical bullshit.

And the subway… well, who hasn’t been inspired to compose verse, treatises, and/or a letter to the editor while being ferried cargo upon public transportation? As Paul Simon once murmured, “The words of the prophets are written on the subway walls and tenements halls and whispered in the sounds of silence.” And the prophets are saying… Wreckonize!

The car commute just doesn’t inspire comparable poetry. For one thing, commandeering a two-ton steel vehicle occupies the same sectors of the brain that mediate creative thought…. or any thought. For another thing, driving on traffic-plagued roadways during rush hour does not inspire the same sort of acquiescence towards humanity as walking on a tree-lined path. A transcription of my mental activity during my commute would run something like this:

Third gear, fourth gear. Fucking Volvo. Fucking Jeep. Get off my ass, Saab. Stale green light. Yellow light. Third gear, second gear, first gear. Red light. Reggae channel. 80s channel. College channel — alright, Guided By Voices. First gear, second gear, third gear. FUCKING Jeep. Left lane. Fourth gear, fifth gear, sixth gear. Red light. Fifth gear, fourth gear, first gear. Sigh.

Not exactly prime poetry fodder, although maybe I could write an elegy for the abnormally giant leaf that I ran over and thought, for an instant, was an animal? A limerick about the cursed rush-hour traffic on the off-ramp of Route 2? Or a haiku for the Audi driver who nearly crashed his car indulging in hyperactive right-lane passing in gridlock traffic?

(It’s easier to write poetry about boiled cabbage than it is to write about driving…)

Posted in Existence.

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