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The War on the Car

War and car don’t rhyme

though you’d never know it

by looking. Having formed

every square and passage to its

wheels, asphalt and cement sock

sewn tight, imposed angular

bound vision into knotted

contortions leave limbs

wrenched, dislocated, cramped

shadows of known reach, each inch

twisted out of vehicular

contractions of morphogenetic

plenitude into rigor of its

intersections, each one timed out

of squared seconds stacked laterally

across expanses of imagination’s

former self, dark formulations

of encounter rising from ashes

of place, declarations of war ring

with sardonic amplifications

of victorious erasure’s contempt

for the loser who looks first

right, then left (except in England’s

green pastures) and steps

into it. Sometimes it’s a river

of asphalt. When the shape

of water is lost, the war enters

a new phase, waxing gibbous

in pedestrians’ minds and the dreams

of commuters waiting

for the light to change. Ghosts

of entire forests wail but war

is already beside the point since world

that ended remains without adequate

ventilation leaving this one with its

lavender and lilac floating on what

can only be considered a very subtle

inflection with little credibility

beyond fading claims of necessity

and undulations of blue to fend

for itself with no chance of sure

footing. Hephaestus may step

out of the truck, squat and blunt,

dip the key in oil and fire the ignition,

but who sees him and where can you go

when the nets drop in badly rhymed

imitations of real streets, impassable

idea of rush, a declension of free way

as it plays out in sluggish rivers of red

in the night, stalled light. Meanwhile,

the war returns when hordes of cycles

descend on the city out of the north

an important sign of further

origins than the regular

ones. The cars, taken by surprise,

roll back before two-wheeled bell

ringing berserker onslaught.

Regrouping at Holts, they emit

an impassable wall of carbon

monoxide lays waste to every

living thing around, leaving marauding

cycles down and scattered across endless

asphalt sweep. Cars win the war

driving back and forth over mangled frames,

twisted tires, honking and squealing

their all-weather Michelins. A national

Automobile Appreciation Day is declared

and everyone has an extra fill-up on the Mayor

before resuming their place in line

Michael Boughn's poem, "THE WAR ON THE CAR," subtly addresses the complex relationship between consumerism, environmental degradation, and the destructive nature of war.  Car culture is used metaphorically to suggest how they represent consumer culture as a war with the environment.

The poem opens with the idea that "War and car don’t rhyme," suggesting a disconnect between the destructive nature of war and the symbolism of cars. However, the poem goes on to illustrate how cars have shaped the urban landscape and infrastructure with its asphalt and cement to facilitate the use of cars, but in doing so, they impose rigid and unnatural structures on the environment.

The poem uses the concept of "war" to illustrate the environmental destruction and upheaval caused by consumer culture, symbolizing the destructive consequences of prioritizing cars over environmental sustainability. This allegory can be extended to real-world conflicts, many of which are indeed fought over resources like oil. The poem thus indirectly critiques the destructive wars waged for access to such resources.

The poem's description of "lavender and lilac floating," hints at the loss of natural beauty and environmental integrity, which might be seen as an allegory for how war and resource exploitation degrade the natural world, leaving it bereft of its inherent beauty.

Boughn’s poem is a poignant metaphor about the environmental cost of consumer culture, while indirectly touching upon the devastating consequences of wars fought for resources, to shed light on the destructive nature of both consumerism and war.

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