• Vol. 10
  • Chapter 10

Twenty-first century Ozymandias

On a towering butte somewhere in the American heartland
stands a monument in solitary, poignant splendor
to that great invention of mankind - the automobile.
Someone created this improbable stack of cars -
hoisted by crane, perfectly stable, incredibly heavy,
arranged them as if they hoped to complete a double helix -
the DNA of the motor vehicle standing in for
a nation where time is money, and money is success.

As they endure the elements in their slow journey
from steel gas-guzzling behemoths to rust buckets,
these once-proud triumphs of design and status seem to
mock their inventors as the planet veers toward climate catastrophe.
“Don’t look at us as the root of your problems,” they say.
“We are your brainchild, fueled by plentiful gasoline -
imported irrespective of cost, of coups, of compromise,
sold for cheaper than soda pop, capable of causing riots
and toppling presidents if its price spiraled upward,
regardless of emissions, and smog, and air quality.”

You can hear them whisper, when the wind ceases briefly
in its relentless sweep across the prairie,
“We did what you asked of us - eager to serve
even as horses could not slake your desire for mobility,
mass transit hampered your thirst for independence,
and your awareness of the environmental cost was
blinded by your ability to kick the can down the road,
and let future generations deal with consequences.


Twenty-first century Ozymandias

Now we sit here and molder, former marvels of industrial design,
muscle cars, practical sedans, speed demons and mom-mobiles,
iconic of glorious vacations, dreaded commutes, romantic cocoons,
growing families, dream factories, and cross-country bonding trips,
loyal, happy to adopt identities aligned with our owner’s desires,
serving with a purr, or a roar, an occasional clunk or hiccup,
while worrying under our chipped paint jobs and hinged metal hoods,
of obsolescence, and the dreaded terms ‘trade-in’ and ‘upgrade’.”

Sometimes on a moonless, desolate night,
when clouds curtain the stars and even wildlife is scarce,
you can hear those car horns honk, their headlights flare,
their blinking red lights tentative in the dark,
as they telegraph a warning to the coming generations
about the hubris of their creators, and the debt owed
by a society that plundered the planet out of selfish disregard,
and will have no option but to pay the piper.