What is it about driving that it seems to set writers into an inspirational mode? So many poets write about driving and talk about how driving inspires them. Tales of notes jotted down hastily - and dangerously - on highways and pulling over to record a line or image.
Robert Bly's poem, Driving Toward the Lac Qui Parle River (from Eating the Honey of Words), certainly begins in the car and contains great detail of the journey and scenery in the first two stanzas. But, as the car and driver move forward, so too does the poem move in some new direction.
Write a poem that gets it genesis in the act of driving. Write about driving or use it as the starting place for the poem. A car you owned, a childhood/family drive, learning to drive- there are numerous roads available to you.


On the autobahn
          just left
     of Munich
                     I saw a spire
in the distance.
           It pulsated blue
     like a strange erection
                     piercing the sky.
Tightly bound in
            bright orange
     it seemed unnaturally
For miles I watched
            the struggle
     between passion and pain
                     as the sky teased
                               with white pillow kisses,
the spire
               in need.
I thought
of monumental longing,
      passion bound
                      in seemingly endless
               the binding was loosed
        as orange yarn
                       swept out over my head
                and the sky caressed
        the pulsating tower.
            the spire moaned in satisfaction
    as the sky tasted its passion.

Behind me
    flaccid blue
                    quietly leaned to the
and the world

James M. Thompson  


The woman in the car is crying,
hands on the wheel like strangling a throat,
mouth twisted in the classic hysterical pose.
She wears glasses.  Her hair short on top
long on the sides, curly and frosted blond.
The car is blue and then the car is gone--

Two seconds at most to register
this passing glimpse of pain then pull away
behind the wheel of my own truck.
Why drive in that condition?
Did she start the car in sadness,
or did it envelope her like the shadow
of an overpass as she drove?

This morning another woman
brought me tears and sought my comfort,
and somewhere a woman forbidden to me
is weeping (I'm almost certain),
and beside me in the rumbling seat of my truck
another woman sits and stares
helplessly numb between the phases of her tears-

but all I can see is the woman in the car
frozen in despair like the daughters of the sun
whose tears turned into amber
that could trap and freeze a moment
in each golden drowning drop.

R.G. Evans


Outside the car, porches lurch at dangerous angles,
barns reduce to crackling piles of faded lumber
on the flattened brown grass of early Northern Spring.
Sometimes I think I see the green that waits beneath.
Sometimes, too, houses bow out on one side and the other,
waiting to collapse, though people live there still, I know
because their chimney smoke trails into the sky,
their televisions flicker.

And there is beauty in the roofs striped in shades
of orange rust on grayish tin, in cloud-shadowed
hills already patched by pines and leafless trees
that wait to bud, in cows in mud, and wrecks of
once useful trucks.  There's beauty in this thruway
too-delicious speed with which I drive away from
or towards whatever waits.

I head for what was home from what was home,
years of anger from a husband who says that now
he's changed, and waits for me to change my own
wrecked heart back towards his.

While all I see is waiting to collapse or grow,
I drive right past and through, across the
mountains into shadows of my own.

Svea Barrett-Tarleton


The mechanic tells me
You drive too fast
and break too hard.
Somehow my car told him this.
Brakes worn too fast.
A clutch that need adjusting too often.
Fluids that are boiling over.
Not that's a bad thing in a woman
he follows up with a grin
Just not with a car.

He's got about 20 years more
on his odometer than me
and a greasy wedding band
that he's inadvertently polishing
with the rag he's holding.

I ask him if he can have it fixed
today so that I can pick it up
in the morning and I lift the hem
of my white t-shirt and fan
my midriff as I say it.

He nods and his eyes shift on me.
The car will be ready in the morning,
and I will drive it away too fast.
I will brake too hard.
Because that's the way I drive
and because men like him
will always wants to make it all better.

Pamela Milne


Over dinner (rigatoni in a sauce) my daughter speaks of our spiritual natures.  She tells me it comforts her to think of being humble.  I tell her she has always been a conscious being, that I witnessed her wet unfolding in a mirror and saw at once how she took in the topography of a world where what she sees is seen for good.  Earlier, driving into Newark, I had been thinking about all the injustice in the world and how some people never get loved or brought things.  I like the road by the river, how it's flat and how it twists just the same, and the long garages with their pleated metal doors, all manner of graffiti. The train station entrance is a cluttered thing, cops blipping cars that linger past the 3 minute wait, people coming and going in the rain-washed light, their faces beautiful as cameos.  I am all locked in and waiting, happy to be alive, my car white and steaming.  I expect elves and a fairy queen to emerge, Bottom, full of dreams and seraphim, this one, for example, into haberdashery and wearing wingtips, this one radiant as gold leaf, pink winged and furious, ready to cast someone, anyone, out of any garden.  My daughter when she comes is on fire and honing in, fizzing like a Giotto angel.  I think how I would open myself up for her again if I needed to, split my body wide enough to carry her anywhere she wanted, my whole circumference sole to crown, lay her flat inside me, leg in leg, this being the thing I might do best: contain the grief, and whatever else might happen.

Mary DeBow


I heard voices
on that long highway home from Sutton
and I missed you when the sun went down.

I heard voices in the dashboard, singing.
I turned up the volume and I missed you;
I thought about Graffiti Overpass
thirty years ago in Stafford Springs:
"Love conquers all; the strong will endure," it said.

I heard voices on the rise near Coventry
and I missed you when the sun went down.
As the darkness rose around me
I thought about you, that night in Forest Park,
the darkest rose in the garden,
and the long highway home, alone.

Ron Lavalette

My automobile life began
with Daddy's 1921 Model T. .
Mama lettered his initials
in gold on each front door for all to see.
She took pictures of him
proudly standing beside his pride,
dressed in his "Sunday-best."
The final test: in the Summer
we'll no longer have to ride the train
to visit Grand Mama!

I was ten years old In 1926
when Daddy traded his Model T
for the self-starting
Model A Ford sedan.
In Summer, Daddy used it as a taxi.
During the school years,
teacher-Mama drove it
12 tedious miles every day
to and from her work.

She always turned her adventures
into interesting stories for me.
Winter, storming its way
through November,
and often well into April,
creatively challenged a car-owner.
Before the days of Anti-freeze,
alcohol in the radiator helped
only somewhat to keep
the water from freezing.
Sawdust in garage walls
was inadequate insulation
against below-zero Wisconsin.
An open-wire electric heater
under the engine at night
was a fire-hazard that
kept the motor warm
without - by some miracle -

burning the place down.
Springtime was just as bad.
Beside the unsurfaced highways
Teams of oxen or horses
waited at every "sink-hole"
to rescue automobiles bogged in the mud.

With money she inherited in 1930
Mama purchased a Deluxe
Chevrolet four-door sedan.
During that Summer we drove Out West
to visit her brother in Spokane.

September, 1930:
I was sitting In the High School's Study Hall;
but this new Freshman was too enthralled
with remembering Montana's Big Sky
and the snow-capped Big Horn Mountains
to be impressed.
Having been carried out of this world
on the wheels of our Chevrolet,
I would never again
regard this little place
as The Center of my life.

Catherine M. LeGault


one easter morning
brother billy and i
with faces pressed against
the rear window of daddy's old ford
trying to read the little signs
along the highway
we count- the days- like pennies-
till we- find- we- haven't many-
burma shave.
last easter morning
i drove along the same road
after picking billy up at the v.a.
where he is a patient
as we drove in silence
we came upon some little signs
long faded with the words
count not - the miles -you have-
driven- but the- sins- god has-
forgiven- burma shave

ray cutshaw

The Journey

Each season when the winter snow would arrive.
My father wanted us to take a drive.
Into the wilderness I thought we would go.
Actually we were en route to grandma's house.
I always wondered why we would go, when everything was cold.
The cold feelings, the cold landscape, but most of all the cold
Father always trying to sound pleasant.
I was happy just to be able to take the drive.
The wind in my hair.
They said, I was crazy! Close that window son! Its thirty degrees
I would laugh and pay no attention.
I just wanted to see grandma.
I now feel the winter's cold.
It is now I correlate the long winter drives and grandma's passing.
My father drove to see grandma in winter
because he was already dead inside.
The winter snowflakes reminding him
Grandma had gotten old before his very eyes.
I guess he thought if we visited her in winter
he would be reminded of death
for winter has a way of doing that.
Here it is years later
and now dad can't drive in winter
It reminds him of the demons of so long ago
Most of all it reminds him of those drives in winter
Because he loved grandma most of all.

Raul robert Maldonado


Rumble of an engine
Pop open -- my sleepy eyes
The neighbor's cranky motor revived from memory:
Grandpa's 1950's "woody"
Youngest children piling in
Gathering of chortles and chuckles and
"it's my turn" --
"nuh-uh.. it's mine"
Each of us would vie for coursing a steer
Seagulls wildly gabbled
Diving in for morsels of morning toast
To join in the hoopla of collected youthful verse

Rumble, rumble of a cranky engine
She'd start with a heightened whine
Wood rattled vibrato with rusty muffler's chide
And then I remember:
The salt air would shower
Leaving skin sticky
While tendrils of soft, stringy hair
Whipped and waved like a shredded flag
My teeth often dried from gaping exposure
And Grandpa whistled with sure contentment
He had a firm commitment - teaching us to drive

Connie E. Goulden



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