Illustration by Benedicte Delachanel

Rat Race

I’m driving sluggish
out of the city’s leaden grasp
engine and brain overheating.

Toxic breath hot from metal lungs
infuses the city shroud
and my lungs groan.

Tentacles of bypass, overpass
tunnels and bridges take their toll.
They should be paying me
compensation for damage done.

Octopus stranglehold untangles
loosening with kilometres passing
clean air flows freely once again
through my trachea.

27 thoughts on “Rat Race

  1. Love the allusion to the octopus. So true!!!!! (Dislike cities, hate convoluted roadways, don’t enjoy driving any more – so this poem really resonates with me!!)


  2. It is when I am getting out of the city that I see how fast it grows…but I like being in the city and your poem to me looks like the suburbs. A very good depiction, though,

      1. When I red your poem I got this image of highways and under pass, and over-pass like tentacles encircling the city (as you say)and to me is not part of the city. They are the border between the city and the suburbs. I like the center of towns, where people walks, where there are so many interesting little stores, restaurants, different houses, buildings, so many details.
        Trying to explain my vision makes me appreciate more your writing, so clear, vivid and fun!

        1. Oh, I get what you meant now. The problem with Brisbane is that these road structures are right in the city. It is has grown topsy turvy without planning, unlike many other large cities around the world. But poem is also about the pollution which permeates the atmosphere (Brisbane is one of those cities that the pollution gets trapped because it is in a basin with a hill/mountain behind it). Thanks Ben.

  3. And Sydney is twice as bad. I don’t want to start a oneupmanship thing between our two cities but the pollution in old Sydney town right in the CBD is making me gag. And if the pollution doesn’t kill you the terrible driving will!

    1. The traffic in Sydney scares the beejeesis out of me. I’d never drive a car there. But it is such a stunning city. If we could all teleport (like in startrek) then we wouldn’t have a problem.

  4. You describe the suffocating feeling of living close to the city so well. It just sneaks up on you, & you don’t realise it till you have escaped.Stifling sounds, stifling fast mechanical movements, stifling regimen.

    1. Yay,yay – hi Jane. Your comment is poetic – ‘stifling sounds, stifling fast mechanical movements, stifling regimen’. I could add a few other stifling things but I won’t go there – ha,ha. I particularly hate a ‘stifling regimen’ with work and driving kids to and fro and trying to park at school and traffic jams. I know it is very hard if not impossible for most people to avoid. We are very fortunate to have none of that up here.

  5. I think you mean tactile learning, as opposed to visual, auditory or kinesthetically. Good luck with the course and looking forward to reading the results. Have fun.

    1. I think it was ‘experiental’ I was looking for, but ‘tactile’ as well. Aren’t kinesthetic and tactile similar? Songs look a bit silly written down – one day I’ll put a tune to them. Thanks Lisa.

  6. Yes, yes, I quite agree with the spirit of your poem. My own greatest shock comes when I walk around city streets (though haven’t done that for almost two years now) and marvel that I could ever have been one of those frantically scurrying female-crabs-in-suits who’ve perfected the art of not making eye contact and know the shortest route through arcades.

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