While my prison pen pal “Conway” waits for news on his petition for early release, he’s been dreaming of returning to work on those motorcycles and racecars he loves. It’s been almost a year since California repealed its harsh “three-strikes” sentencing law for nonviolent offenders, but my friend’s case is languishing due to the usual bureaucracy and the slow and inconsistent work of his public defenders. The prose-poem below comes from his ongoing series of odes to urban car culture.
Meanwhile, in prison reform news, the FCC finally capped the exorbitant phone rates that were preventing many prisoners from maintaining contact with their families on the outside. Such connections are crucial to keep them from re-offending. Donate to the Campaign for Prison Phone Justice at Nation Inside to thank them for their decade of work on this issue. (Don’t be put off by their unfinished website.)
City Elegy III
No musical sound true as traffic, has moved these senses so strongly.
Lost songs echo endlessly in this ear’s memory.
Low rumble at idle, or burn-out then roar away.
How can one hand, or foot, hold back the temptation of acceleration, without testing all limits?
I have dared to invoke those hidden horsepowered reins just straining to be released.
What does anyone know. Anyone who has not conspired to call upon an unstrained throttle. Especially the song. A mechanical throat that’s been closed for too long sings. (A reborn derelict.)
Oh to behold the hollow night growling. Deep as an empty stomach. As another restored machine announces its hunger.
An ancient frame vibrates in anticipation, twists as it shakes off the crusted rust of ages. Then unleashes the force of factory-born flame harnessed free-wheelin’ thunders voice, as it bellows out loud a groundpounding — Move!
Momentum begins, as adrenaline purges each driver to quicken forward movement. Pushing gravity beyond simple attraction. Like: an ancient call into battle.
A charge on horseback towards the final clash of combat, or competition. When Hannibal’s men came tramplin’ in on elephants. To crush all those who dared to oppose.
But, even those beasts proved their flesh, to be almost as weak as man.
So, man made machines, cherished steeds became formed from metal. Each iron horse or motorized chariot was forged of stronger stranger magic.
One machine can release the sound of a thousand horses, hooves pounding at full charge.
Or, cruise by slow with the rhythmic thump of drumbeats parading by, like armored knights in their glory, celebrating a victorious return.
This is what I imagine; This is what I hear.
During another power-filled night of hot rods and motorcycles.
The music of oil pans dragging down hard streets and avenues.
I salute all those passengers, who have lost their lives, in the ultimate pursuit of velocity. Those who have sacrificed their flesh to a crush of twisted mangled metal.
I do not count your sacrifice in vain. You! Who knew the danger and felt the pure rush of living unstrained.
You, who attained the last great flash of life without regret.
You, whose headlights form a constellation of stars, up above the Earth and everywhere else.
I cannot see your vehicle, you’re now too far to recognize.
But your light shines down, like the traffic I still hear.
I wonder; Are you still racing up there? Is this the sound the Cosmos creates. Is that just one huge Avenue of cars, trucks and motorcycles?
Are all those demolished vehicles polished and rollin’ again — Rolling into view, down the Avenue. Cruising with the Gods…