Another Why I Hate Cars Poem

I always liked the kitchen where my mother and aunts hung
out preparing all the food for our great sized gluttonous family.
I was always a little terrified of my Dad’s twin older brothers
about whom it was later speculated that their prodigious feats
of mass consumption were caused by lack of food when the family
fell to hard times when they were still infants and had been
feed wall paper paste as no other food could be procured.
They were recent immigrants from Holland when the 1907 “bucket shop”
panic hit and the U.S. economy collapsed for a while. It was the good old
days before welfare or actually anything at all for the poor …

For me the long ride down the industrial corridor from Bay City
to Detroit where my parents grew up and the rest of the family
still lived was this endless nausea. I did everything to try to make
it go away if only I could be still in the moving thing but when
we got where we were going it was even worse to see the cement mixer
grind created in the suburbs of the city by the assembly line technique
applied to housing, that is the social explosion of the infernal combustion engine.
I took one look at those curvy cull de sac and I knew we were already in hell.
There weren’t even sidewalks about half the time and there was nowhere to go in the sea
of private properties. We were always finding this special place that nobody else knew about
in those days and returning next year to find it over run by the convoy of those years.
We were free to go anywhere we wanted until we all decided to go someplace at the same time.
Then we sat steaming in long smoking lines going no place. At least we weren’t being churned by the bumps
in the pavement and the wind in the under carriage and the wobble in the shock absorbers. No there was no denying we’d
completely off the rails and found ourselves in a chaotic world of ever special system break downs and insult added to         injury.

I felt it at that subterranean level with a hypersensitive intensity that naturally started the resistance.
I was always going off somewhere just to get away from those cars. Out to the dredge cuts. Past the city limits.
Down the dead end roads to the Bay. Into the tree line. Back into the tree line. Back into those copses of woods.
I would try to remember what it was like before all those machines with wheels even as those motorized chariots
were re-routing the whole world around me every day. It was the Celtic Cart Car Cult and we were all under the wheels.


James Van Looy has been a fixture in Boston’s poetry venues since the 1970s. He is a member of Cosmic Spelunker Theater and has run poetry workshops for Boston area homeless people at Pine Street Inn and St. Francis House since 1992. His work appears weekly in Oddball Magazine.