Sunday, August 24, 2008

Jeep Cherokee

So it’s been nearly a month since my last post, and that’s pretty embarrassing. The only excuse I have is that I’ve been so immersed in finding poems for my new creative writing class (school starts in less than two weeks… ugg) that all my “poetry time” is spent on searching, reading, and copying rather than on posting on my blog. I hereby vow, however, to make at least one post each day from now until the start of school (Sept. 2nd).

I’m going to do something that I’ve never done before on my blog: I’m going to post a very long poem (I say “very long,” but you have to look at the relative scale of my previous posts. I found this poem while searching online for something else. The first few lines captured me right away and made me want to read the whole thing, despite the fact that I generally get bored easily by longer poems.

by Bruce A. Jacobs

You’ve never known
a single Indian
who wasn’t painted
onto a football helmet
or branded in chrome
on a tailgate, but there you go,
off mashing the landscape
like some edge-city explorer,
flinging yourself toward
new worlds beyond the driveway,
Lewis and Clark
with a seat belt.
Go ahead, you trampling trooper,
you goose-stepping little
Godzilla, you shining beast
of raging fashion,
riding the big teeth
of your tires as if you
would ever follow a dirt road
anywhere but to a car wash.
This is America,
and you’re free to drive
anything you can buy
but I will tell you:
Hitler would love this car-
a machine in which even the middle class
can master the world,
purchase their way through peril
safely as senators.
This is a car for
a uniformed strongman,
a one-car motorcade
through a thatched village
of strangers.
This is the car that will
replace Prozac.
This is the car that Barbie buys
with mad money
after the date with Angry White Ken.
This is the car that makes it safe
to be hateful in public.
Go ahead. Climb in. Look
at yourself, way up there
on the bridge of this
thick-windowed ship of enterprise.
Everybody knows
the only way today is to
buy your way through,
be bigger, be better,
be a bully, be a barger,
be sure you’re safe from the poor,
bustle your way through
each days bombardment
with the muscle of royalty.
You’ve got the power
to bring back the monarchy
four fat tires at a time.
Go anywhere. You’re entitled.
You have squashers rights.
Onward! Accelerate,
you brawny bruising winner,
you self-saluting junta on wheels,
you reclaimer of gold-bricked streets.
Democracy is for people
stuck in small cars
and God has never ruled
through traffic laws.
Get used to the feeling
of having your way.
Each broad cut of the steering wheel
is your turn at conquest.
The power-assisted triumph
of the me
in heavy traffic.
You are rolling proof
that voting is stupid,
that the whole damn machine is fixed
before it leaves the factory,
that fairness is a showroom,
that togetherness is for bus riders,
that TV has the right idea:
there is just you in a small room
on the safe side of glass,
with desire spread out before you
like a ballroom without walls,
and you will not be denied,
you’ve got the moves and the view,
you don’t need government, unions,
bank regulation, mercy,
the soft hands of strangers.
You’ve got 4-wheel drive
and a phone, you’ve got
the friendship of a reinforced chassis,
you’ve got empathy for dictators
without knowing it,
you’ve got freedom from read-view mirrors,
you’ve got wide-bodied citizenship,
you’ve gained Custer’s Revenge:
caissons packed with children and soccer balls
coasting across the plowed prairie,
history remodeled with one great
blaring of jingles and horns:

Hail Citizen King!
Hail the unswerving settler!
Hail the rule of logo!
Hail Jeep Cherokee!

“This is the car that Barbie buys with her mad money after the date with Angry White Ken”!!! What an image! “This is the car that will replace Prozac.” Oh, so true. Why do we buy these big, gas-guzzling cars if not for the thrill of driving up so high above everyone else? How many mothers and teenage rich kids really need the giant car for their off-roading habits?

The best line, though, comes soon after the two above: “This is the car that makes it safe / to be hateful in public.” Now I’ll admit that I have a touch of road rage but I really think that 99% of New Jersey drivers can relate to that. When I’m driving my small Honda Civic and get angry, I just lay on the horn and curse at the idiots in the other cars (usually from Pennsylvania); but when I’m driving my wife’s SUV, I have no qualms about honking, cursing, and then riding the tail of the aforementioned idiot—and I feel perfectly safe doing it. After all, “Democracy is for people / stuck in small cars / and God has never ruled / through traffic laws.”

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