Dear Dirty America


Traffic Starts Rumbling

April 05
14:30 2012

Credit: U.S. Dept. of Transportation

(originally posted at 100 Peculiarly Useful So-Called Poems)

Traffic starts rumbling outside my window before dawn

first a train sounding its horn over & over

then trucks hauling dirt from excavations for new houses

that no one is going to buy before the developers go broke

but you can’t blame them for pushing forward

I want to push forward myself

I’m restless, tossing, turning, starting to wake against my will
they don’t want to hold on to the land & pay taxes on it

probably they can’t afford to wait

can I afford to stay in bed any longer?

I remember I told myself last night to sleep late

felt close to exhaustion

but there’s a crack in the road’s asphalt

& every time a truck that’s emptied its load of dirt

goes over that crack, it bounces

& lands with a terrible rattle

sometimes I’ve thought Brenda has fallen, or maybe a wall

then the cars start rolling by, more & more every year

no shortage of jobs right now, wages low

relative to cost of health insurance, shelter, education

everyone needs money to pay for food & fuel

prices have climbed like crazy

government’s inflation measure sets aside price of food & fuel

I’d like to get up & get going

join the guys at the counter of the cafe

coffee would cut thru the stray thoughts

I’m unlikely to resolve any time soon

I usually eat oatmeal, it’s cheap & healthy

but eggs would be good

hash brown potatoes, sausage, or ham

treats you give a dog when you’re training him to fetch

strikes hurt giant industrial corporations

because the profit is based on continuous production

troops broke up the big railroad & steel strikes

continuous production requires continuous marketing efforts

continuous sales, expanding markets, imperialism

when they talk about recession

they’re talking about a break in continuous production

that profits require

not about how hard it will be for you to buy food & fuel

anyway, there goes the fuel rumbling outside my window

I’m not going to be able to go back to sleep

I was reading, last night, about what happened

to the Indians & Blacks after the Civil War

& how the rights of women, too, were set aside

immigrants from east & southern Europe & China

lived ugly lives, ugly languages, dangerous ideas

there were railroads to be built, national markets, financial deals

new technologies, like now, to be mastered

greed, yes, but also understandable fear of being left with nothing

& Democratic & Republican politicians

trying to build & maintain winning coalitions

some had altruistic goals according to their understanding

but their jobs depended on winning

then continuously being reelected

as the jobs of the drivers of the cars outside my window

depend on continuously showing up for work

more machines more toilet paper more everything

more people born, making efforts, dying

I’ve been continuously making efforts

you’ve been continuously making efforts

so have the Democrats & Republicans

laborers & financiers, teachers & students

mothers, infants, doctors, nurses, engineers & lawyers

& the 70 million members of the Chinese Communist Party

in matching suits

(a nice contract for someone who knows someone)

& the former members of the Russian spy agency

the oil sheikhs, their courtesans & employees

& the members of all the American spy agencies

those who analyze & those who covertly disrupt

& all the soldiers & those who tend

credit & debit card scanners, & package purchases

I remember how I used to think it so terrible

for the best people in Russia & China

their hopes & efforts constantly suppressed & obscured

by the coercions of rigid, narrow-minded commissars

but it’s like that here, now, too

& it’s not just the government

it’s the people continuously making efforts

toward results that are never enough or the intended results

who have no patience for anyone talking about

letting the traffic go by in the morning

& figuring out what else to do

all the profit is in continuous production

but the lion’s share of the profit goes to someone

other than those making the continuous efforts

I don’t pretend I know what to do

I’m restless because I want to get started

it’s not as tho I can afford to lie around with superior thoughts

what can I make that I can sell to whom, how?

how can I perform?—

for the people in the cars & trucks rumbling outside my window

continuously doing what they’re doing

in Washington, Beijing, & Moscow

in every metropolis & every hinterland

those who believe they have won or are winning

or those who feel that they are living in someone else’s world

all of whose ingenuity is engaged

in overcoming bitterness, fury, the feeling that effort is useless

in making do & being diplomatic

with bullies & insane people in positions of authority

I try to communicate with those like me

restless, but resisting joining the futile & destructive parade

but who know that they must somehow enter commerce

with those who are doing what they resist doing

&, if possible, steer themselves

(maybe help others steering themselves, too?)

toward a different & better outcome.

See also: “People I Met Hitchhiking on USA Highways”: Eric Chaet’s Mission, a book review by LA novelist Donald O’Donovan

Eric Chaet, The Turnaround Artist, born Chicago, USA, 1945, raised on rough South Side, pre-computer factory, office, & warehouse jobs. Some teaching, some independent self-taught technical consulting. 1974, Old Buzzard of No-Man’s Land, poems, Toronto, Canada. 1977, Solid and Sound, vinyl LP of songs, Lee’s Summit, Missouri, USA.  Mid-80s to mid-90s, silkscreened, hitchhiked, & stapled 1500 cloth posters to utility poles along American highways.  1990, How To Change the World Forever For Better, brief prose philosophy, Greenleaf, Wisconsin, USA; 2nd edition, 1994.  2001, People I Met Hitchhiking On USA Highways, mostly narrative prose, De Pere, Wisconsin, USA.  Lives in Wisconsin, industrialized dairy farms & cows, remnant cheese & paper factories & factory hands & outlaw mammals & birds, post-construction boom, reactionary politics & obsolete machinery, a smattering of professionals & millionaires.  Poems published, over 50 years in many USA states, plus Brazil, Cuba, Ireland, Scotland, England, Spain, France, Belgium, Netherlands, Sweden, Switzerland, Nepal, India, China, Singapore, Korea, & Taiwan, often in translation. 

Reach him via Contact box at bottom of any page of his website, 100 Peculiarly Useful So-Called Poems, <>. 

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