Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Carless in the Land of Cars: a poem

Carless in the land of cars,
I do a lot of walking
through places not built for me.
Some neighborhoods don't have sidewalks,
as if the developer had made a decree:
"None shall walk here!"

I walk on sidewalks where few walk,
beside wide hot streets
and large shopping centers
over paved landscapes I make my way,
a book bag over my shoulder,
pavement as far as the eye can see!

I try to imagine the landscape
before Big Lots and Best Buy and Costco
and cars by the thousands.
I close my eyes and imagine
yellow mustard flowers, sage,
prickly pear cactus, some trees.

I breathe in deeply the carbon
monoxide that is my birthright,
born into this world,
and wonder if life still exists
beneath the concrete and asphalt.

What life still breathes beneath
that new apartment complex,
those industrial warehouses?
If we tore it all up,
would anything bloom again?

Driving in your air-conditioned car,
the radio playing,
zipping efficiently from place to place,
it's easy not to consider these questions.
Being carless, I ponder them daily.

I walk alone in hot unshaded places,
unnaturally hot in late October,
getting hotter in this land of no harvest,
no seasons, no food to grow,
only to consume.

I wonder what the first settlers,
hell-bent on civilization,
would think if they saw this land today.
I wonder if this is what they had in mind,
this hot unnatural landscape.

I wonder if a native Californian,
a native of the native American variety
from long ago, when the land was
still natural, she whose language
and landscape has been destroyed...

I wonder what she would say
if she stood upon the intersection
of State College and Chapman,
beside the Mobil Station,
I wonder what she would say,

and would I have the patience
to try to understand?

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