Greenwood Encyclopedia of African American Literature

Sunday, October 14, 2007


I haven't had to carpool much in my life, thank goodness, but I do appreciate the way English so quickly absorbs such concepts and turns them into verbs. My sense is that languages like Swedish and German have more trouble doing that, and this is probably to their credit, at some level. English seems to be the great vacuum-cleaner of languages.

I have taken a fair number of public-buses in my work-life, and of course I have given and taken rides in cars to work-related destinations, but not really on a regular basis. For the better part of two decades, I've lived some 5 minutes from where I work, and we just moved again, in part to escape what had turned into a very difficult commute of 20-30 minutes (one way, for about five years). To many people, I realize, such a commute would be a piece of cake.

My uninformed sense of things is that Americans still don't take to carpooling. As bad as the traffic is in this area, one still sees many, many cars with one driver in them. There's something about the American temperament that wants to drive alone, traffic jams, global warming, petroleum prices, and going-to-war-for-oil be damned. I think I share the temperament, unfortunately; it's just that I've been lucky enough to live near my job. I think I'd rather take a bus (or a train) than car-pool, for some strange reason. I'm very glad to be able to walk to work now, leaving a lot of gasoline languishing in the tank.

In any event, here is the only carpooling poem I've written (and good luck with your commute, wherever you are--Tokyo, Berlin, Buenos Aires, Seattle, San Diego, Oklahoma City. . . . .):


I’ll meet you where horizon
catches a ride with the tollway
and There tells Here where to go.

The Commissioner of Asphalt
will snip a ribbon, a way will
open, and we’ll commute on

into Nowhere. We’ll sing of
carts and dirigibles, trucks and
tri-planes, trains and schooners

and other means of trans-
importance. We’ll best be getting
along into the shaking sky. Why,

we’ll be late and early
both at once, nearing and
disappearing. Together!

Copyright 2007 Hans Ostrom

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