I myself do not drive, and probably cannot be taught to. My reaction times are fast enough for cycling, but no more. However, I like the challenge of writing poems to order, and the order has occasionally included a request from a friend grieving for a car. Two such elegies were published in the church magazine Streetwise 16, October 1994, p.25.
TWO ELEGIES FOR CARS
(i) In memory of Amy Dolomite Triumph-Ettrick, died of rust, January 1993
A much-loved car may turn more pain,
passing away, than should be true:
it had the life it had from you,
and cannot give it back again.
The business of the parting (make
internment to interment, led
for Amy, long already dead)
is after Christmas, and grey ache.
Here is the yard where every state
of wreckage -- loss of faces, hearts --
waits rusting, gives up fewer parts,
continues to disintegrate.
Leave her poor corpse for fifteen pounds,
fifty of which will have to go
towards the new car's tyres, which blow
bathos in those appalling grounds,
and see the roads keep pumping life
mechanically through the town,
racing or jammed or slowing down,
stoppable, yes; not for this grief,
and kids notch pencil gates, five bars,
adults, parked oddly as the Ark,
click little counters as they mark
the passing of the vans and cars.
(ii) To Clare on the loss of her Metro
Awkward, you were, at the acquisition --
flushed, almost as for a dishwasher,
as much as for a man,
lots more than for a television --
high-minded to make a healthy
reduction in your use of the road:
by trains for cross-country travel,
buses in the city, or your bike,
and where the streets are steepest, walking,
paying to go green as the policy
insures drivers against driving and its embarrassment,
anxious to justify journeys, or excuse them,
ashamed of leadening the Leeds air.
Well, the stained air can be said to have won:
August, and work is all washed up,
beachedly dull like decaying boats,
and moist has crept through the car's metal,
rendered its body brittle with rust.
THANKS FOR THE JOURNEYS TO CHURCH AND STATION,
THANKS FOR PRAISING MY NAVIGATION,
BEARING MY MISTIMED SPECULATION
ABOUT SOMEONE ELSE'S ORIENTATION,
BIT OF A HARD AND KNOTTY CLUMP
TO PULL UP AND THROW AT YOU ALL OF A JUMP
SHORT OF A TRAFFIC-LIGHT, DRIVING THROUGH RAIN
AND LEEDS' ONE-WAY SYSTEM IN TIME FOR A TRAIN.
AND KNOWING THAT YOU AND I GO BACK AS FAR,
MORE OR LESS, AS YOUR Y-REGISTERED CAR,
I THANK GOD, HEARING SOME OF THE THINGS I HAVE SAID,
THAT ONLY THE CAR IS CORRODED AND DEAD.
A more recent elegy is for a car that was stolen from outside our house in the night of 27/28 April 2004, and discovered, even before we knew it had gone, in the grounds of Soham Village College. The poem was published in Orbis 135, Winter 2005, p. 61, and includes some amendments suggested by Orbis editor Carole Baldock.
OUR CAR, ABANDONED NEAR THE SCENE OF AN OLDER CRIME
(to Clare, again, on the loss of a Metro)
Deep in ancient embarrassments,
I did not see
that I'd put my bike through
where our car ought to be,
and I could not recall,
when you rang with the question,
if I'd seen the car then
or mere auto-suggestion.
But before you rang,
the car had been found,
fourteen miles away, early,
in a school ground.
So before I pushed bike
through car-space and mind's nettle,
the car was already
a wreck of burnt metal.
Perhaps, like a churchyard,
the grounds of that school
are marked for outrageous
breakings of rule.
I can’t tell if that’s so
from my tiny self-knowledge,
full of my idiocies
at school and college.
But after the breakings,
do the breakers find
they can silence the growth
of nettles in the mind?
The car's replacement is still with us, but we have for many years been following the advice in the book Cutting your car use by Anna Semlyen. In 2003, we drew up a pledge form for others who might wish to make a thing of cutting their car use. Feel free to download....