Monday, February 22, 2010

The Drunken Driver Has the Right of Way

At this weekend's tea and poetry reading, the guest who came from farthest away (Colorado) brought the poem that was the biggest surprise to me. I liked it so much that I started leafing through the volume and she finally had to leave it for me so I could read the rest. The volume is by Ethan Coen (of movie-maker fame) and this is the title poem:

The Drunken Driver Has the Right of Way

The loudest have the final say,
The wanton win, the rash hold sway,
The realist's rules of order say
The drunken driver has the right of way.

The Kubla Khan can butt in line;
The biggest brute can take what's mine;
When heavyweights break wind, that's fine;
No matter what a judge might say,
The drunken driver has the right of way.

The guiltiest feel free of guilt;
Who care not, bloom; who worry, wilt;
Plans better laid are rarely built
For forethought seldom wins the day;
The drunken driver has the right of way.

The most attentive and unfailing
Carefulness is unavailing
Wheresoever fools are flailing;
Wisdom there is held at bay;
The drunken driver has the right of way.

De jure is de facto's slave;
The most foolhardy beat the brave;
Brass routs restraint; low lies high's grave;
When conscience leads you, it's astray;
The drunken driver has the right of way.

It's only the naivest who'll
Deny this, that the reckless rule;
When facing an oncoming fool
The practiced and sagacious say
Watch out--one side--look sharp--gang way.

However much you plan and pray,
Alas, alack, tant pis, oy we,
Now--heretofore--'til Judgment Day,
The drunken driver has the right of way.

The message of this poem is, in essence, what I said to Ron last week before I set out on my commute after a night of freezing drizzle that had coated all the city streets, but which wasn't so bad even on the little two-lane highways I have to travel for the first half hour of my hour-long journey: "I'll be careful, but it's the guy in the other lane I'm going to have to keep an eye on!"


Anonymous said...

I love this!
Also, I just lost a battle here at work where, in fact, the stupid, persistent and loud have won over the reasonable, polite and right.
I would plot my revenge, but I don't think I'm really capable.
So I fume.

Teena said...

Interesting-- I had heard only the first stanza of this poem. I wonder where I ran across it-- I certainly didn't know there was more.

Jodie said...

That pretty much sums up the world right now (not an optimist today). Even when looking at the depressing rhyming poetry is still so much fun.

writtenwyrdd said...

Motorcyclists learn that rule too, as it's generally the other drivers who get you killed.

Although I must say I found the poem to be poorly crafted, the message is good.

Jeanne said...

Readersguide, I think the poem is about fuming! Sometimes I teach a class where I feel like I'm catering more to the stupid, persistent and loud than offering much of value to the reasonable, polite, and prepared.

Teena, the first stanza, huh? He also writes a lot of limericks!

Jodie, I particularly enjoyed the rhymes when I first heard it because it was read out loud to me.

writtenwyrd, it seems to be trying to grow up to be a villanelle, doesn't it?

I think it took having kids to really teach me that "carefulness is unavailing."

edj3 said...

Loved this poem. Careful, Jeanne, I am going to end up deciding that I like poetry after all.

And yes, having children certainly showed me that I'm not in control of much of anything.

lemming said...

Great poem.

I am reminded, over and over, that it's the minority who create headaches for the rest of us - the people who refuse to follow directions even when bashed about the head by the reminder.

As or driving, well, you know how much I avoid it!

Jeanne said...

Elizabeth, providing a variety of poems here is my sneaky way of getting more people to like them...glad to hear it's working!

Lemming, this is exactly what we were complaining about yesterday on FB, isn't it?

As I keep saying to my 16-year-old, it's not that hard to get a driver's license...

Care said...

A great poem for New Year's Eve - the scariest night to drive anywhere. and maybe after Super Bowl.