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April 16th Jp Poem Pick

Thanks to our amazing Vice President, Colleen Powderly, for choosing today’s gem!


by Hayden Carruth (Honorary JP Member)


Listen here, sistren and brethren, I am goddamn tired

of hearing you tell me how them poor folk, especially

black, have always got a Cadillac parked in the front

yard, along with the flux of faded plastic and tin.

I just blew fourteen thou, which make no mistake is

the bankroll, on a Toyota Celica. The poor man’s

sports car the salesman said, which is the truth.

(I’ll write about the wrongs done to car salesmen

another time.) She do look mighty good there in my

front yard, too, all shiny red and sleek as a seal.

It means a lot to me, like something near or almost

near what I’ve always wanted, and it reminds me of

the Emperor Tlu whose twenty-first wife asked him what

he wanted for his birthday, and he being a modest man

said the simplest thing he could think of off-hand,

a jade chrysanthemum, and thirty years later he got it,

because you see that’s how long it took the master

jade-carver and his apprentices to make it, and when

he got it—Tlu, that is—he keeled over on the instant

in sheer possessive bliss. Why not? Professor Dilthey

once said history is the science of inexactly recording

human inexact passions, thereby giving birth to sociologists,

as every school person knows. Well, let them have a look

at all these four-wheeled jade chrysanthemums around here.


by Hayden Carruth, from Tell Me Again How the White Heron Rises and Flies Across the Nacreous River at Twilight Toward the Distant Islands, New Directions, 1989


Great choice, Colleen! Absolutley love it!

So, in response to this poem, let’s write about our very first car. Mine was a Royal Blue, Olds Delta 88, with plush seats and too many cigarette burns. What about yours?


3 Responses

  1. My first was a hand-me-down Neon, which occasionally required the use of its flashers (and not just for 5-minute parking spots). I was driving it one night when I spotted some fireflies/glowbugs/lightningbugs and wrote one of the pieces that went into the webzine Flurb:


  2. I had to have a car to get around Chicago, substitute teaching at a new school most days. Not much money. My Dad went along and I bought a l94l four door Buick, built like a tank. This was l952 and that car was already ancient. It got me around. Now and then the brake fluid leaked out and I had no control over that heavy car so i had to run into a fence or traffic sign to stop. When slipping on ice down a hill near the Loop, I didn’t have to worry inside that car when I gently hit something.
    No seat belts in those days. How brave I was, thinking back. Also facing those city kids who were more tough than I was and more street smart, too. I still remember some of those kids. I remember the feeling I had behind the wheel of that great old Buick.

  3. my first car wasn’t my car, it was the family car, but it was the car I learned to drive.
    Olds Cutlass 72
    color green chrome and rust.
    cloth seats
    pull out vents
    bumpers almost 12 inches tall
    nose to nose an inch shorter than a Lincoln a friend was driving

    I learned to turn on a dime in this car – a left hand palmed turn that made my dad complain about being made to ‘suck face with the window’. He also complained about watching the telephone poles whizzing by the window too.
    I learned that maneuver so well that, when I took my driving lessons, the instructor’s coffee (in his right hand) just swiveled right out the open window. I took that turn at 25 miles per hour, and was cautioned to ‘slow it down’.
    It would have kept me safe – it ate a volkswagen rabbit (totaled it) with a small dent in the chrome bumper, and also did significant damage to a Jetta while only the license plate was crinkled. My Dad hammered it back out.
    It ate GAS with all its heart and 8 cylinders.
    People got out of my way on 128/I 95 in the Boston area.

    It was the horn in this car that my Dad transplanted into my Chevy Chevette years later. I only wish I could have pulled it out again – it was SO COOL having something so big-sounding in such a tiny matchbox.

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