My Perfect Machine

Perfect Machine Volvo Truck
Perfect Machine Volvo Truck

My perfect machine:
Engine purrs like a sprawling cat having her chin rubbed.
Gears glide up and down like fingers slipping through flaxseed.
Chrome flashes, paint job gleams, windows sparkle,
And no dirt or grime finds purchase on her flawless skin.

My perfect machine is a dream.
My perfect machine is a fantasy.
My perfect machine is a lie.
My perfect machine is a diesel.

— Trucker Poet


No Perfect Machine

Volkswagen slew the myth of the clean diesel. The only way those vaunted German engineers could clean up a diesel engine was by cheating. They gamed the system, switched the code, pulled a fast one, hoodwinked everyone, and thought they could get away with it. Emissions looked awesome because they used the most efficient engine settings during that test. For performance, they used settings that made the exhaust dirtier than any other diesel. Miles per gallon was another lie. And for a while, they did get away with it, because no one tested everything all at the same time.

In the real world a few people did notice MPG numbers nowhere near close to the claims. Over time, an EPA test engineer became suspicious and blew the whole scam apart. To be fair, it wasn’t just Volkswagen. The first vehicles proven guilty of the scam were Volkswagen, and the guilt kept spreading. More tests found fraud among cars by Mercedes, Fiat-Chrysler, Jeep, Nissan and Renault. Every company paid a price for that betrayal, for proving there is no perfect machine.


Perfect Motor

Maybe you’ve heard about the self-driving eighteen-wheelers. Don’t hold your breath. Self-driving cars are decades away because they just aren’t safe or reliable enough. No one has a computer with enough power to replace a human driver. Remember Watson on Jeopardy? Sure it beat the champions, but it made a fool of itself on questions kids can answer. Watson is light-years more capable than any computer in a self-driving car. Watson also fills a room, a big room.

But the next most perfect machine is a motor. I expect to own a battery-powered, electric-motor, big rig some day soon. That dream truck will have more torque and power than anything on the road today. It’ll be quiet, have regenerative brakes, and recharge the batteries going downhill. The cab will be lower and more streamlined, with extra room in the back sleeping compartment.

The future is coming. Look for it on the racetrack first. NASCAR will add an electric class. That’s when racing will truly become a motor sport.

Bitter Cold Mountain Chains

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Snow getting deeper,
Last chain’s tight,
Fingers like timber,
Bitter cold night.

Cab’s all toasty,
Rolling uphill,
Top speed thirty,
Bye-bye chill.

— Trucker Poet


Bitter Cold William Wordsworth

Several months aftwer Wordsworth died, his widown Mary published “The Prelude”. This lengthy autobiographical poem to Coleridge produced little interest at that time. Only years later did people recognize the work as his masterpiece.

Sonnet 24 – October 1803

  Six thousand Veterans practis'd in War's game,
  Tried Men, at Killicranky were array'd
  Against an equal Host that wore the Plaid,
  Shepherds and Herdsmen.--Like a whirlwind came
  The Highlanders, the slaughter spread like flame;
  And Garry thundering down his mountain-road
  Was stopp'd, and could not breathe beneath the load
  Of the dead bodies. 'Twas a day of shame
  For them whom precept and the pedantry
  Of cold mechanic battle do enslave.
  Oh! for a single hour of that Dundee
  Who on that day the word of onset gave!
  Like conquest would the Men of England see;
  And her Foes find a like inglorious Grave.


Bitter Cold – Stepping Westward

  While my Fellow-traveller and I were walking by the side of
    Loch Ketterine, one fine evening after sun-set, in our
    road to a Hut where in the course of our Tour we had
    been hospitably entertained some weeks before, we met,
    in one of the loneliest parts of that solitary region,
    two well dressed Women, one of whom said to us, by
    way of greeting, "What you are stepping westward?"


  _"What you are stepping westward?"--"Yea_."
  --'Twould be a wildish destiny,
  If we, who thus together roam
  In a strange Land, and far from home,
  Were in this place the guests of Chance:
  Yet who would stop, or fear to advance,
  Though home or shelter he had none,
  With such a Sky to lead him on?

  The dewy ground was dark and cold;
  Behind, all gloomy to behold;                            10
  And stepping westward seem'd to be
  A kind of _heavenly_ destiny;
  I liked the greeting; 'twas a sound
  Of something without place or bound;
  And seem'd to give me spiritual right
  To travel through that region bright.

  The voice was soft, and she who spake
  Was walking by her native Lake:
  The salutation had to me
  The very sound of courtesy:                              20
  It's power was felt; and while my eye
  Was fixed upon the glowing sky,
  The echo of the voice enwrought
  A human sweetness with the thought
  Of travelling through the world that lay
  Before me in my endless way.

Rubber Meets The Road

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Smooth pavement, silent running,
Easy driving. Bang!
Another retread bites the road.

— Trucker Poet


Where Rubber Meets The Road and Walt Whitman

Published in 1918 by Doubleday, Page & Company, The Patriotic Poems of Walt Whitman has four sections: Poems of War, Poems of After-War, Poems of America, and Poems of Democracy. The War for Whitman was the American Civil War, which he saw first-hand while tending wounded soldiers in DC hospitals. These poems are as relevant today as they were in his time.

Thick-Sprinkled Bunting

    Thick-sprinkled bunting! flag of stars!
    Long yet your road, fateful flag--long yet your road, and lined with
          bloody death,
    For the prize I see at issue at last is the world,
    All its ships and shores I see interwoven with your threads greedy
          banner;
    Dream'd again the flags of kings, highest borne, to flaunt unrival'd?
    O hasten flag of man--O with sure and steady step, passing highest
          flags of kings,
    Walk supreme to the heavens mighty symbol--run up above them all,
    Flag of stars! thick-sprinkled bunting!


O Captain! My Captain!

    O Captain! my Captain! our fearful trip is done,
    The ship has weather'd every rack, the prize we sought is won,
    The port is near, the bells I hear, the people all exulting,
    While follow eyes the steady keel, the vessel grim and daring;
          But O heart! heart! heart!
            O the bleeding drops of red,
              Where on the deck my Captain lies,
                Fallen cold and dead.

    O Captain! my Captain! rise up and hear the bells;
    Rise up--for you the flag is flung--for you the bugle trills,
    For you bouquets and ribbon'd wreaths--for you the shores a-crowding,
    For you they call, the swaying mass, their eager faces turning;
          Here Captain! dear father!
            This arm beneath your head!
              It is some dream that on the deck,
                You've fallen cold and dead.

    My Captain does not answer, his lips are pale and still,
    My father does not feel my arm, he has no pulse nor will,
    The ship is anchor'd safe and sound, its voyage closed and done,
    From fearful trip the victor ship comes in with object won;
          Exult O shores, and ring O bells!
            But I with mournful tread,
              Walk the deck my Captain lies,
                Fallen cold and dead.

Year That Trembled and Reel’d Beneath Me

    Year that trembled and reel'd beneath me!
    Your summer wind was warm enough, yet the air I breathed froze me,
    A thick gloom fell through the sunshine and darken'd me,
    Must I change my triumphant songs? said I to myself,
    Must I indeed learn to chant the cold dirges of the baffled,
    And sullen hymns of defeat?

Marfa Lights

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Marfa lights glowing,
Fata Morgana maybe.
Darn dusty windows!

— Trucker Poet


Marfa Lights and William Wordsworth

Marfa Lights would certainly have inspired the English poet William Wordsworth. Together with Samuel Taylor Coleridge he helped launch the Romantic Age in English literature. They jointly published Lyrical Ballads in 1798. Wordsworth was Britain’s poet laureate from 1843 until his death from pleurisy on 23 April 1850.

She Was A Phantom Of Delight

She was a Phantom of delight
When first she gleam’d upon my sight;
A lovely Apparition, sent
To be a moment’s ornament;
Her eyes as stars of Twilight fair;
Like Twilight’s, too, her dusky hair;
But all things else about her drawn
From May-time and the chearful Dawn;
A dancing Shape, an Image gay,
To haunt, to startle, and way-lay.

I saw her upon nearer view,
A Spirit, yet a Woman too!
Her household motions light and free,
And steps of virgin liberty;
A countenance in which did meet
Sweet records, promises as sweet;
A Creature not too bright or good
For human nature’s daily food;
For transient sorrows, simple wiles,
Praise, blame, love, kisses, tears, and smiles.

And now I see with eye serene
The very pulse of the machine;
A Being breathing thoughtful breath;
A Traveller betwixt life and death;
The reason firm, the temperate will,
Endurance, foresight, strength and skill;
A perfect Woman; nobly plann’d,
To warn, to comfort, and command;
And yet a Spirit still, and bright
With something of an angel light.


Among All Lovely Things My Love Had Been

Among all lovely things my Love had been;
Had noted well the stars, all flowers that grew
About her home; but she had never seen
A Glow-worm, never one, and this I knew.

While riding near her home one stormy night
A single Glow-worm did I chance to espy;
I gave a fervent welcome to the sight,
And from my Horse I leapt; great joy had I.

Upon a leaf the Glow-worm did I lay,
To bear it with me through the stormy night:
And, as before, it shone without dismay;
Albeit putting forth a fainter light.

When to the Dwelling of my Love I came,
I went into the Orchard quietly;
And left the Glow-worm, blessing it by name,
Laid safely by itself, beneath a Tree.

The whole next day, I hoped, and hoped with fear;
At night the Glow-worm shone beneath the Tree:
I led my Lucy to the spot, “Look here!”
Oh! joy it was for her, and joy for me!

Eighteen-Wheeler Scammed

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Container port duty, life-sucking maelstrom.
Eighteen-hour days, deeper in debt, my eighteen-wheeler is not my own.
Slip the yoke, screw the bloke, hammer-down home!

— Trucker Poet


Walt Whitman Eighteen-Wheeler Scammed

To the ancient Greeks, an eidolon was a spirit-image of a living or dead person. Modern dictionaries define the eidolon as either 1) an idealized person or thing, or 2) a specter or phantom. The 2013 SF video game Warframe declares eidolons to be “simple-minded, spectral fragments of the shattered Sentients that roam the Plains of Eidolon at night.”

However, you define your eidolon, consider how Walt Whitman used the word in this view of life and the universe.

Eidolons

       I met a seer,
  Passing the hues and objects of the world,
  The fields of art and learning, pleasure, sense,
       To glean eidolons.

       Put in thy chants said he,
  No more the puzzling hour nor day, nor segments, parts, put in,
  Put first before the rest as light for all and entrance-song of all,
       That of eidolons.

       Ever the dim beginning,
  Ever the growth, the rounding of the circle,
  Ever the summit and the merge at last, (to surely start again,)
       Eidolons! eidolons!

       Ever the mutable,
  Ever materials, changing, crumbling, re-cohering,
  Ever the ateliers, the factories divine,
       Issuing eidolons.

       Lo, I or you,
  Or woman, man, or state, known or unknown,
  We seeming solid wealth, strength, beauty build,
       But really build eidolons.

       The ostent evanescent,
  The substance of an artist's mood or savan's studies long,
  Or warrior's, martyr's, hero's toils,
       To fashion his eidolon.

       Of every human life,
  (The units gather'd, posted, not a thought, emotion, deed, left out,)
  The whole or large or small summ'd, added up,
       In its eidolon.

       The old, old urge,
  Based on the ancient pinnacles, lo, newer, higher pinnacles,
  From science and the modern still impell'd,
       The old, old urge, eidolons.

       The present now and here,
  America's busy, teeming, intricate whirl,
  Of aggregate and segregate for only thence releasing,
       To-day's eidolons.

       These with the past,
  Of vanish'd lands, of all the reigns of kings across the sea,
  Old conquerors, old campaigns, old sailors' voyages,
       Joining eidolons.

       Densities, growth, facades,
  Strata of mountains, soils, rocks, giant trees,
  Far-born, far-dying, living long, to leave,
       Eidolons everlasting.

       Exalte, rapt, ecstatic,
  The visible but their womb of birth,
  Of orbic tendencies to shape and shape and shape,
       The mighty earth-eidolon.

       All space, all time,
  (The stars, the terrible perturbations of the suns,
  Swelling, collapsing, ending, serving their longer, shorter use,)
       Fill'd with eidolons only.

       The noiseless myriads,
  The infinite oceans where the rivers empty,
  The separate countless free identities, like eyesight,
       The true realities, eidolons.

       Not this the world,
  Nor these the universes, they the universes,
  Purport and end, ever the permanent life of life,
       Eidolons, eidolons.

       Beyond thy lectures learn'd professor,
  Beyond thy telescope or spectroscope observer keen, beyond all mathematics,
  Beyond the doctor's surgery, anatomy, beyond the chemist with his chemistry,
       The entities of entities, eidolons.

       Unfix'd yet fix'd,
  Ever shall be, ever have been and are,
  Sweeping the present to the infinite future,
       Eidolons, eidolons, eidolons.

       The prophet and the bard,
  Shall yet maintain themselves, in higher stages yet,
  Shall mediate to the Modern, to Democracy, interpret yet to them,
       God and eidolons.

       And thee my soul,
  Joys, ceaseless exercises, exaltations,
  Thy yearning amply fed at last, prepared to meet,
       Thy mates, eidolons.

       Thy body permanent,
  The body lurking there within thy body,
  The only purport of the form thou art, the real I myself,
       An image, an eidolon.

       Thy very songs not in thy songs,
  No special strains to sing, none for itself,
  But from the whole resulting, rising at last and floating,
       A round full-orb'd eidolon.


Jake Brakes Shouting Out Loud

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Jake brakes popping, slashing cool night air,
Echoing across the sleeping valley.
Gear down, good buddy, gear down.

— Trucker Poet


Walt Whitman’s Jake Brakes

His words remind me of jake brakes sounding miles away. Punctuated, they seek attention, but distance softens their urgent calls. So Walt Whitman punctuates his words, gently guiding my attention to those things that to me are like water to a fish, but which benefit from closer inspection.

In his poems, Whitman defines America and the place of history in all things. He calls to all of us: take action to right the wrongs besieging so many others who are less fortunate than us. These are topics laced together, inseparably intertwined, as each of us is with everyone else. Civilization requires society. Society requires cooperation. Cooperation is the natural human condition. All else is fantasy and folly.

To Foreign Lands

I heard that you ask’d for something to prove this puzzle the New World,
And to define America, her athletic Democracy,
Therefore I send you my poems that you behold in them what you wanted.


To a Historian

You who celebrate bygones,
Who have explored the outward, the surfaces of the races, the life that has exhibited itself,
Who have treated of man as the creature of politics, aggregates, rulers and priests,
I, habitan of the Alleghanies, treating of him as he is in himself in his own rights,
Pressing the pulse of the life that has seldom exhibited itself,
(the great pride of man in himself,)
Chanter of Personality, outlining what is yet to be,
I project the history of the future.

What Place Is Besieged?

What place is besieged, and vainly tries to raise the siege?
Lo, I send to that place a commander, swift, brave, immortal,
And with him horse and foot, and parks of artillery,
And artillery-men, the deadliest that ever fired gun.

My Tires Speak

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My spinning tires speak in tongues
Countless voices plainly talking
Individuals hiding amongst themselves.

— Trucker Poet


My Tires Speak and William Shakespeare

More than four hundred years after his death, academics continue to argue about whether William Shakespeare was a real person and wrote everything attributed to him. Regardless of the answer, the plays and poems of Shakespeare continue to delight millions.

Then there are the crazy spelling variations in his name. He signed it differently at various times in his life. Editors and printers coined more variations before and after his death. So whether you spell it Shaxper, Shakspere, Shakespear, or Shackspere, his art remains immutable.

Every play he wrote in iambic pentameter is like an epic poem, but his most famous poems are the sonnets. Shakespeare never drove a truck, but if he could have, I’m sure he would have heard the tires speak to him.

Sonnet 27

Weary with toil, I haste me to my bed,
The dear respose for limbs with travel tired,
But then begins a journey in my head
To work my mind, when body’s work’s expired.
For then my thoughts (from far where I abide)
Intend a zealous pilgrimage to thee,
And keep my drooping eyelids open wide,
Looking on darkness which the blind do see.
Save that my soul’s imaginary sight
Presents thy shadow to my sightless view,
Which like a jewel (hung in ghastly night)
Makes black night beauteous, and her old face new.
Lo thus by day my limbs, by night my mind,
For thee, and for my self, no quiet find.


Sonnet 44

If the dull substance of my flesh were thought,
Injurious distance should not stop my way,
For then despite of space I would be brought,
From limits far remote, where thou dost stay,
No matter then although my foot did stand
Upon the farthest earth removed from thee,
For nimble thought can jump both sea and land,
As soon as think the place where he would be.
But ah, thought kills me that I am not thought
To leap large lengths of miles when thou art gone,
But that so much of earth and water wrought,
I must attend, time’s leisure with my moan.
Receiving nought by elements so slow,
But heavy tears, badges of either’s woe.

Sonnet 64

When I have seen by Time’s fell hand defaced
The rich-proud cost of outworn buried age,
When sometime lofty towers I see down-rased,
And brass eternal slave to mortal rage.
When I have seen the hungry ocean gain
Advantage on the kingdom of the shore,
And the firm soil win of the watery main,
Increasing store with loss, and loss with store.
When I have seen such interchange of State,
Or state it self confounded, to decay,
Ruin hath taught me thus to ruminate
That Time will come and take my love away.
This thought is as a death which cannot choose
But weep to have, that which it fears to lose.

Come Ride With Me

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Ride with me for a day.
We’ll sing the open road
Onward beyond forever.

— Trucker Poet


Walt Whitman

I consider him the greatest nineteenth-century poet. He was also an essayist and journalist. Walt Whitman traveled some in his life and more-so in his poetry. Reading his works, I often hear him say “Come ride with me.”

On Journeys Through the States

On journeys through the States we start,
(Ay through the world, urged by these songs,
Sailing henceforth to every land, to every sea,)
We willing learners of all, teachers of all, and lovers of all.

We have watch’d the seasons dispensing themselves and passing on,
And have said, Why should not a man or woman do as much as the
seasons, and effuse as much?

We dwell a while in every city and town,
We pass through Kanada, the North-east, the vast valley of the
Mississippi, and the Southern States,
We confer on equal terms with each of the States,
We make trial of ourselves and invite men and women to hear,
We say to ourselves, Remember, fear not, be candid, promulge the
body and the soul,
Dwell a while and pass on, be copious, temperate, chaste, magnetic,
And what you effuse may then return as the seasons return,
And may be just as much as the seasons.


To a Certain Cantatrice

Here, take this gift,
I was reserving it for some hero, speaker, or general,
One who should serve the good old cause, the great idea, the
progress and freedom of the race,
Some brave confronter of despots, some daring rebel;
But I see that what I was reserving belongs to you just as much as to any.

The Ship Starting

Lo, the unbounded sea,
On its breast a ship starting, spreading all sails, carrying even
her moonsails.
The pennant is flying aloft as she speeds she speeds so stately–
below emulous waves press forward,
They surround the ship with shining curving motions and foam.