General Motors / Body by Fisher advertisement, 1939 (via fulltable)
...................(loosely after Baudelaire's “Une Charogne”)
Bad girl, dear creature, do you remember that thing
we saw one summer morning, wandering the paths
by Maggie’s Farm: the carcass of a ’39 Chev,
an oil-stained wreck in a tangle of weeds:
the headlights two scoops of glittery pebbles,
the radiator stained with a dribble of rusty water,
the engine block furred with grease and dust
and the steering wheel broken. The rust
and the rotting rubber and the chemicals
leaking from sump and battery gave back
to the soil various acids and heavy metals
that the generous earth had given,
in an elemental form, to factories
in China and Taiwan, liquids now escaped
from their silent, sealed utility and translated
to a cautiously-spreading poison.
Mantling a pool of fuming ruby liquid
a scum of brilliant green and scarlet
trembled and stared back at the sky.
There was a vague stink of oil and gasoline.
The sun looked down on that ruined thing,
burning the dented metal and blistered paint
that had been burned a thousand times before.
The angle of fender and running-board echoed --
so it seemed -- a quickly-sketched motif
in a Francis Bacon painting I had seen in London;
the pattern of paint blotches and scratches of rust
on the bent flank reminded me of Mark Tobey
at his most subtle. Here, these graphic images
were only graphics because I looked at them,
just as, years ago, a crack in a particular footpath
had sketched a perfect design meant for nobody,
but one stared at and stored away by me.
But this decay and desolation waits for us all:
you too, when your time comes,
and the coffin is shovelled over with dirt
and the eternal darkness begins, when the worms
come to keep you company and strip you
to the bones, you too will be forgotten
decade after decade, century upon century,
forgotten among millions: but for this
brief reminiscence: a sketch that will fade,
but less quickly, while the language lives.
General Motors / Body by Fisher advertisement, December 1937 (via fulltable)
Scrap and salvage depot, Butte, Montana: photo by Russell Lee, October 1942 (Farm Security Administration/Office of War Information Collection, Library of Congress)