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At Four Dollars a Gallon

Ignored in discussions of the recession and fuel crisis is the effect both will have on literature.

Here’s my forecast:

As gas prices continue to rise, writers will be more stationary, more prone to investigating interior landscapes. More authors and, before them, characters will die from bicycle injuries. Poems and stories will smell less of petrol, confine themselves to limited geographies. Writers and writings that travel will do so on mass transit. Email and text message traffic from telecommuters will usurp automotive and postal traffic, boiling letters and words from dialects. Verbs will come with less horsepower, and authors will step with lighter feet on syntactic accelerators. Prose will be more staid, more content to noun around. In and out of books, we will look out more windows. Fingers and feet will do more walking.

I’m excited by these possibilities (with the exception of death). I love poems on trains. There’s Jordan Davis’ sweet and appropriately titled Poem on a Train (Barque, 1998), for one, with its bustling vistas outside a moving vehicle and inside an author. Here’s a stanza birthed somewhere on Boston’s South Shore:

What a word
And the sun comes across the lawn
Onto my legs
They’re as warm as my teacup hand
I imagine Issa walking by
An hour and a half before the train
No good looking at the girls
Through my sunglasses they’re all my sister

Another lovely train poem is Loren Goodman’s “Dear Ken,” in the latest issue of the online journal Past Simple. This poem, too, takes immediate surroundings for ingredients–text across the rear of passenger sweatpants figures prominently–and ends in anticipation of its destination, and also a turkey sandwich:

Ken, this sandwich I’m eating is so good
I’m sandwiched between the good feelings
Of my trip and the sandwich itself
(She’s back!)
Ok, it’s true
I haven’t started
Eating yet but
I’m telling you
It’s gonna be great