Category Archives: Car Sonnets

Purgatory, Kentucky (4/7)

The ferry’s here. I guess I’ll drive on in.
I tell you if I’d known I’d have my truck
on this side of, well, whatever side I’m on,
I’d have done myself in sooner. Just my luck
the ignition switch is still a fussy thing
which I guess means this isn’t heaven.
I never really minded when it wouldn’t start,
just took the time to admire my good old Ford,
Bought it new in ’72, Grabber Blue,
What was there me and my girl couldn’t do?
My favorite thing I ever hauled? An outhouse
that my Mama did NOT want me to take away.
“When your crazy cousin Vernon visits,
I like to have a quiet place to pray.”
Keeping at it, might finish this crown of sonnets during National Poetry Month, just three more to go (but only two more days in April). (The others are in the category “Purgatory,Kentucky” and I’ll put them all together when I write #7). But it’s fun,even if I don’t finish in April, and I’m happy to have written another “car sonnet,” which is one of the big drivers of traffic on my blog, people Googling “car sonnets.” Hope this counts, even though it’s a truck. (NOTE: I no longer write sonnets whilst driving–now when I say “car sonnet” it means a sonnet with vehicular subject matter.)

Here’s a 1972 Ford truck, Grabber Blue. This is pretty much my dream vehicle.

Ferry on Highway 169 somewhere in Kentucky (a Creative Commons shot from Edlitmus on Flickr)

Ferry on Highway 169 somewhere in Kentucky
(a Creative Commons shot from Edlitmus on Flickr)

Nick Fury’s SUV

[SPOILER ALERT: If you have seen trailers for the movie Captain America: The Winter Soldier,” you’ve already seen this scene–I’m not giving anything else away here, other than what Chevy cars show up in the movie.]


“The air conditioning is fully operational.”

Computerized, attentive, the voice of the Tahoe
recites time estimates and is just being rational,
still gets a pretty big laugh before it’s thrown
in the air and then upside down by a bomb
when it answers Nick Fury’s angry request,
“What isn’t damaged?” The answer then becomes
that Chevrolet is a company he can trust.

Black Widow rumbles in a new Corvette
(though I swear I thought it said Porsche)
and an Impala gets its own solid scene.
This is product placement at its best.

Like Cap himself–it’s honest, direct, authentic,
as up-front as a Silverado truck.

Maybe I’ve become the ideal 21st century drone–I really don’t even mind the product placement in Captain America. I’m not sure how noticeable it would have been if 1)I hadn’t been trying to think of ways to write sonnets about cars because one of the big drivers for traffic on my blog is people who Google “car sonnet” and land on my category–which used to mean I started writing the sonnet in the car. Which I don’t do any more because it seems really obviously to be a case of distracted driving, even though I was pretty careful to do it only when there was next-to-zero traffic around. And 2)I hadn’t known I was going to see the movie twice, so I was letting myself pay attention to all kinds of everything the first time through.

It certainly wasn’t as awkward as the product placement in Back to the Future. COULD I HAVE A PEPSI?

And though I might be a drone about blithely noticing the Chevy vehicles in the movie, and while I would certainly accept a new Chevrolet in exchange for a fair number of product placements in my poetry, I doubt I’ll buy one. Of the cars I’ve owned, almost all have been Fords or Mercury products:
First car: Mercury Comet bought from my Aunt Toni. It was named Gloria & had a rust disease.
Next car: Mercury Comet bought from my Aunt Becky. It didn’t have a name or rust.
Next car: Mercury Zephyr.
(And then a Subaru Justy, which really shouldn’t count because it had only three cylinders and was totally totaled in a collision that would have caused only minor damage to my next vehicle,)
First truck: Ford Ranger, long bed.
(And then a VW Golf, which, regardless of paperwork, is actually my husband’s vehicle)
Current car: Ford Focus station wagon, silver, stick-shift.

It was my Gran’daddy who made me a Ford fan & that’s as permanent as being a Cardinals fan.
Here’s a fun article on the product placement which SPOILER ALERT actually does say a couple more things about the movie you won’t know from trailers, and it also has the fun commercial with kids pretending to be Black Widow and Captain America.

NaPoWriMo stats: I wrote poems on April 1, 2, and 3, but posted only a couple of those. Then didn’t write on April 4 or 5. Then here. Honestly? Not too worried about 100-percenting it. Just glad to write a little more.


(not sure how to credit this image which is all over & clearly an ad for Chevy & the movie)

(not sure how to credit this image which is all over & clearly an ad for Chevy & the movie)

And you know, really, I’m remembering this car as having rounder front-end and butt. But I’m sure if everyone’s saying it was this car and it’s a Corvette, that’s really what it is and I must’ve just been revising it in my head based on the shape of the woman driving it.

Girls, Girls, Keep Watch

Hanging out with the gargoyles at 3 a.m.,
the demon dogs, the dragon cats,
astride the roof of my brain.

Girls, girls, keep watch for me,
scare the bad buys off, don’t wake me up
with lists of all my ineptnesses.

In the morning, when you sleep,
I promise I’ll attack myself.
I always do. Meanwhile, do the job
I made you for, dreamcatchers,
stone oracles, armed guards at the door.

Shark Week poem entry

They say you have to keep moving or else you die.
So I haul my cartilage from surfer to seal,
wall-eyed and hungry, fighting stereotypes.
Call it “feeding frenzy,” but what I feel
Is exuberance, or joy, to say it plainer.
For me, it’s blood in the water. For someone else,
A luggage sale at Boston Store. (But hell–
When is there not a luggage sale there?)
I’m like the rooster who won’t pay child support,
The tom whose kittens are not safe from him,
Can’t stick around. Safer outside the fort.
It doesn’t pay to stop until I cash it in.
But in the ocean, even when you’re dead,
You don’t stop moving. Waves rock your bed.

Much Ado (Very, Very Much)

My anxious thoughts do woo me like Don John,
with wild tales of catastrophe, with shame,
and I play stupid Claudio each and every time.
I fall for lies. I forget everything I’ve known.
Up next the betrayed Hero inside me dies.
Not really dead, but a bad-ass swoon, or worse–
the split-second wish that everything would end
if this building, choking, chewing panic can’t.
Only Beatrice says it can. I always lose
when I argue with myself. I am a mess.
Only Benedick, in pill form, thus,
can hush me, with his little medicated kiss.

That Joss Whedon. I tell you what. I loved, loved, loved his Much Ado About Nothing.

Having been swamped a bit with anxiety lately, I’ve been thinking on it, and am concluding that anxiety is a big, fat liar. But sneaky, and seductive.

Today’s wisdom, thus: if the sneaky liar is as cute as Sean Maher playing Don John, no wonder I keep falling for it.

Sean Maher  taken by Gage Skidmore

Sean Maher
taken by Gage Skidmore

And, fortunately, all’s well that ends well, right? (Because in this case, Beatrice is right–the panic never lasts. Also note: I’m so sorry to repeat the structure of Shakespeare here in my sonnet, giving Benedick the last word. I just tell myself he must be an awesome kisser in that last scene, if she stops talking entirely.)

But wouldn’t it be lovely, if my inner Claudio developed his shit-detector a wee bit more?

And if my inner Hero freaking stood up for herself instead of swooning?

Well. One does what one can to line one’s psychological ducks up*, and then one hopes the duck poop doesn’t give everyone swimmer’s itch.


*including the appropriate and authorized use of anti-anxiety meds, thank you very much

(Image of Sean Maher available through Creative Commons license on Flickr.)

Driving in a David Cates Novel

“O beautiful, for spacious skies
But now those skies are threatening”
“The End of the Innocence”

Taking the secret detour, the one the natives use,
I fly down Highway T to Z,
past the Cates family farm but really,
it’s the dips and swales and curves
and hills and valleys and long slopes up
and ridge roads that feel impossibly high
for Wisconsin that let me know I’m in a zone
where fiction could happen and also perhaps
some magic but for me, partly panic–

I get agoraphobic on some of these rises
where all you can see past the crest
is the sky. It reminds me of Eastern Montana
a little (except for more trees on both sides),
where I once drove up a long brown hill for so long,
for an hour, forever, I stopped believing in Canada.
I couldn’t imagine anything north of where I was.
Nothing but a sheer drop-off to Hell, maybe,
over the top, nothingness, a crevasse, the crimp-
edge of the known world, no ditch, just–

The trip up, the torture, doesn’t last that long here.
Just when I’m wanting to pull over,
figure out how to turn around or back up,
which is impossible–the road’s too narrow,
the curve’s too sharp, the hill’s too steep–
well, there we are, around the bend
finally, a stretch of open road, another red barn.

Another falling-down house tucked in behind
a mess of blooming lilacs, under which,
if this really is a David Cates novel, someone’s having sex
RIGHT THIS MOMENT, and probably with someone they shouldn’t.

And later the woman, or maybe she’s a girl,
would take a dandelion and say “make a wish”
as she blew the white seeds everywhere at which point
the man, or maybe he’s still a boy,
would think “tampopo” but not say it, not wanting
the girl to feel bad for not knowing Japanese,
and he might also think, but not say,
some racy, clever thing using the word “blow.”
What he probably would say would be “Great.
Now there are more weeds everywhere,”
but then regret having said anything at all.

Because you have to remember, the moment you think
“Anything can happen,” that something bad could.

Just because it’s almost June and everything’s green,
every shade of green, just because the blue sky
is paint-chip sky-blue right overhead, even when
you’ve got Don Henley cranked on the radio,
you can glance in your rear view mirror and see
how the bright blue turns to pale blue and then haze
and then gray along the horizon.

You can see farms you can’t get to on Highway Z.
The people who live there are happy or sad.
But you’ll never get there. You’ll never know.

Coming home, you’ll stop at the T of Highway T and 23
and you’ll see Frank Lloyd Wright’s wind mill
and it won’t impress you this time. Not at all.

I left Southern Illinois to go to graduate school in Missoula, Montana, and there met David Cates, who’d come from Spring Green, Wisconsin, where I live now.


His latest book is odd and beautiful and haunting and two trips to Dodgeville recently I really have felt as though I entered some sort of parallel universe. If you read the book now, there’s probably a silver station wagon taking a curve a little too fast. I’ll be waving.

The latest novel by David Cates (wonderful to read, odd to drive in)

The latest novel by David Cates (wonderful to read, odd to drive in)

Hamlet’s Back at Devil’s Lake

The actor playing him this summer’s there,
I mean to say. He likes to memorize
while hiking, where the purple quartzite shines
and the T-Rex headed vultures soar.
The rock he’s on is so much older than
the play he’s in. They’re metamorphic mirrors–
hard things from Shakespeare and tectonic shifting–
still shiny, still showing us us after years
and years, hundreds, and millions, a billion years.
It is time and timelessness. And time is time,
not out of joint, not yet, still gracious here.

He is morphing, but the actor is still Matt,
and this Prince of Denmark loves his dog.

(If only poor Ophelia’d had a cat.)

Oh! I can’t wait to see Hamlet this summer–great fun to be had and heartache to be felt and always, always interesting to see a new actor take on the old speeches and give them to us new.

Which reminds me–I need to get all my tickets figured out! To the box office with me, anon!

If you haven’t already made your own plans, you really oughta go to American Players Theatre.


(Apologies for the sprung rhyme scheme above. Once I’d thought of “If only poor Ophelia’d had a cat,” I couldn’t let it go. Fortunately “cat” rhymes with “Matt.” But “dog” is just hanging out there, not rhyming with anything. Yet. I might revise. In any case, I know Matt will take care of his dog. And dogs mostly don’t care about rhymes. Thanks, Matt, for letting me share the pics–especially the puppy one. How could anyone look at that picture and not smile?)


Matt Schwader, appearing this summer in Hamlet.

Matt Schwader, appearing this summer in Hamlet.

Purgatory, Kentucky

It got to where I couldn’t see a way
ahead except for dying. So I went.
So here I am. Just where, I couldn’t say.
It’s odd. Some kind of grass, or cane, all bent

this a way and that, slick at the root,
and spiky sharp half the time, black as coal,
but soft enough to lie down in, some spots.
I’d a slept more, but my dreams is full

of nasty animals and dead presidents.
I got attacked by a whole fleet of armadillos
in a river. An armada. Is that what you call it?
Abraham Lincoln himself chopping wood. “Hello

Mr. Penny Man,” I said. He spoke not a word.
But this ain’t Hell. Of that I am assured.

This was a challenge poem–I wanted to write a poem JUST FOR my reading tonight at UW-Manitowoc (which was terrific–thanks, Jessica!). So the Manti folks suggested I write about Boyd Crowder’s hair, Abraham Lincoln chopping wood, and an armada or armadillos.

I’m imagining Mags Bennett’s voice here. Might write some more of these.

Bowie’s Voice (“Where Are We Now”)

starched linen right when
it’s not so stiff

piece of paper twisting
in a breeze

sheet of metal
a thin sheet
its sound waves
emerging at the quiet snap
of bending this way
and then that

Bowie’s voice
in “Where Are We Now”

exactly how we ought to speak
to the dead, were we to speak
to the dead, were we dead,
were we out walking the dead.


Gracious I love that new album. And, for those of you landing here after Googling “walking he dead meaning” in oh, so many languages–I take it to mean being nostalgic for what is gone, so nostalgic so often that our nostalgia has become banal, and yet heartbreaking and urgent at the same time.


(in which two bottom feeders eye me)

1. Lone Rock Crow Diner

Less and less of the deer each week,
the ribs stick up now, six white arches
just visible above the edge of the ditch.

Today three turkey vultures loomed there,
linebackers next to the crow punters.
One turned his T-Rex head and watched me.

2. Republican Cruiser Sedan

Standing, waiting to cross the street,
I realized too late how slow,
slow, slow the approaching car was coming.

Slumped like a low-rider wannabe,
the driver turned his head and, leer-like,
watched me just like the vulture had.