A Public Sphere for Poetry, Politics, and Nature
[ed. note: I often like to read the early work of an established poet in order to see where he or she started. This poem about automobile pollution was written in the 1950s, long before the term “global warming” was in common usage. Notice how the poet, still in his twenties, already had mastered the inventive use of rhyme, meter, and wordplay.]
Today ten thousand vehicles have passed
In cursing columns down the nearby Post
Road, left that sparrow on the billboard gassed
Whose muddled instincts panic to the west
Beyond the screws and monkey-wrenches tossed
From mobile windows. But the west is east,
And east is south, and south is north at least.
The land is shot for sparrows, shot for men.
But for machines it’s Paradise on Wheels!
The lubricated sky remembers when
Its clouds were H2O, not high grade oils;
And everywhere the graded turf recalls
When it grew grasses rather than these goddam
Vines of white concrete and black macadam.
If that poor sparrow ever manages
To climb above our gamma-powered smogs,
Let him look down upon these acreages
And see if apple trees are bearing cogs,
Of if some tractor isn’t laying eggs,
Its mate a diesel truck that proudly roars
To herald a new age of dinosaurs.
We’ve done a grand job building road and rail.
There’s nowhere some good engine cannot roll
(With some good man behind the driver’s wheel),
And I would not be worrying at all
Except, this afternoon, out in the hall,
I overheard my vacuum cleaner say,
“They built Der Furor just the other day.”
From The Collected Lyrics of Lewis Turco / Wesli Court 1953-2004, Scottsdale, AZ: Star Cloud Press, 2004, 460 pp., ISBN 1-932842-00-4, jacketed cloth; ISBN 1-932842-01-2, trade paperback. Also available from Amazon.com in a Kindle edition.