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diesel breathing (from January 2007)

i found a red light that turned to green
the moment i sped past

that hour’s train thundered above as
i threatened the glossy paint
against the stone trestle
of the railroad bridge

the fog of thinking dissolved on that
cold road as I watched it
consumed underneath,
seventy miles per hour
pulling the yellow snake
across the black

i thought about abbreviations
the way you squeeze otherwise respectable words
as you punch out the order for a classified

i had listed it all for sale,
this car, without purpose, was last,
1owr hi-MPG turbo for $10,6
82k, all pwr, no accd., neg.

my mind pretended to dwell on boarding passes, mail forwarding
or the curious way that envelopes taste if you lick them
but her recent words stilll rang in my mind

a yellow sign blinked by
rating the road for twenty

i spun the wheel on a mountain turn
to feel a leap of fear
in my deadened heart

the tires, liberated by physics
spun against grass and gravel and grace
our mass rose up against the ground,
listing with the curve

life didn’t slow
the tires regained the asphalt
the wheels shook

the rendezvous was called off
the smallest of things held

i thought perhaps i should treat this machine better
this diesel breathing woman was
the only love in my short life
who hadn't betrayed me

colored lights appeared behind
brighter than resurrection
a man of authority emerged from the blinding scene

an hour dissolved under his footsteps
he asked questions a philosopher would fear
“why, how”
i did not know. the lucid moments against god had passed
all i had was my fragmented reality

somehow i escaped that moment
i escaped responsibility,
turned the key to roar away

some dozen miles later,
i found my temporary home

i sat there
listening to the crinkling of the cooling engine
as frost climbed the glass
and thought about
life, a little
but mostly,
the mundane,
the transfer of title tags & registration

Style / type: 
Free verse
Review Request (Intensity): 
I appreciate moderate constructive criticism
Last few words: 
This is one of my favorite poems. I submitted this to Neopoet in January 2007, and unfortunately it was lost on the "old" site, until now.
Editing stage: 
Content level: 
Not Explicit Content


The poem “diesel breathing” by Andrew is a free-verse, narrative-style poem that describes a dangerous drive in a car and the speaker's reflections on their life. While the poem offers a vivid account of the speaker's experience, there are a few aspects that could be improved to enhance its impact and effectiveness.

Firstly, the poem lacks a clear structure or pattern, making it difficult to follow the progression of ideas or events. The poem jumps between past and present tenses, as well as between different ideas, such as the speaker's thoughts on their car, their memories of a woman, and their reflections on life. While these different elements could be interesting, they are not clearly connected, and the transitions between them are abrupt and confusing.

Secondly, the poem uses many clichéd phrases and descriptions that do not add much to the poem's meaning or mood. For example, the phrase “the smallest of things held” is vague and unoriginal, and the comparison of the car to a “diesel breathing woman” is a tired metaphor that has been used many times before. The poem would benefit from more original and specific language that evokes the speaker's emotions and experiences more vividly.

Thirdly, the poem's tone is somewhat detached and emotionless, which detracts from its impact. While the poem describes a dangerous drive, the speaker's reactions to the events are muted, and there is little sense of urgency or fear. This lack of emotional engagement makes it difficult for the reader to connect with the speaker or care about their experience.

Overall, “diesel breathing” is a poem with potential, but it could benefit from more clarity, originality, and emotional engagement. By restructuring the poem to make its ideas and events more coherent, using more vivid and specific language, and engaging more deeply with the speaker's emotions, the poem could become a more powerful and memorable work of poetry.

an appraisal by a human poet. I found that the so-called disconnect between the poets' thoughts about his car, a woman and the periods of time, to be a symptom of a person with a troubled mind. Whether it be because of the stress of any or all of the factors relating to the current reckless drive, is of no concern. I felt the race against the train to be thought-provoking. ~ Geezer.

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author comment

is...... I think I'll write a limerick.


. like my lost dreams...the flood

I have just started learning about the possibilities and concerns with AI for writing and education. I have also been thinking a lot about how proofreading tools, grammarly, spell check, things like that, are evolving and impacting writing.

As Mark noticed, this AI tool probably isn't programmed to proofread the way other tools are.

If it's a large language model, it:

"is a type of AI that uses computer algorithms to understand and produce human-like language. Trained on huge data sets of text, LLMs can “learn” from patterns and relationships between words. One of the main capabilities of LLMs is to extract meaning from text, even when it's written in a way that's not perfectly clear, and then generate text responses based on probabilities of likely words, returning the most likely response given all the text on which it has been trained. The models do this so well that it is possible to have back and forth interactions with them that feel similar to exchanges with a human."

- Kahn Academy, AI for Education: "A new chapter in education" (

So, if it isn't trained or asked to do grammar and mechanics specifically, it won't/can't do that. It pulls from sets of data (language, text) to put something together that resembles a human response; it probably pulls mostly from reader responses that look like analysis of writing/reflections of finished/polished writing, not editor's and proofreaders remarks on rough drafts.

Looking forward to getting into this workshop and reading through everything.


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