Odes to My First Car

Christa Deitrick, Librarian, Literature & Fiction Department,
1980 Ford Fiesta
1980 Ford Fiesta / Alden Jewell on Flickr

In celebration of National Poetry Month, we gave Los Angeles Public Library staffers a poetry prompt—Write an Ode to Your First Car—and the response was Fast and Furious! Because we received so many poems, we are going to divvy them up and share them every Thursday between now and April 30, which just happens to be the last day of National Poetry Month. All of the poems appear in the order in which they were received. Want to participate yourself? Just post *your Ode to Instagram. Read on to bask in the heartfelt memories that only a first car can bring, and don’t forget to come back for the next installment.

Ah Fiesta, Ford Fiesta
Hatchback of my teens
I drove as fast as you’d allow
With KROQ cranked and Marlboro
100 Lights burned down the nights
Preceding PCC.
Your stick shift made a farting sound
When I’d shift up or back or down
And in the end you died aboil
Because I never changed your oil.

—Christa Deitrick

I have nothing but anger
for my first car
A blue Ford Ranger

If it wasn’t the fuel pump, it was the clutch
And this at a time
When I didn’t have much

My second car I thought would be swell
But it turned out worse
It was a Toyota Tercel

—David Kelly

Butch my love

Loved him with all my heart. He was every color with a little rust thrown in for character, Big block V8 engine that responded to my lead foot. He rarely complained and I loved to sing at the top of my lungs from Tom Petty to AC/DC for his ears only. Filled up with regular and floored to the next adventure with my friends and family in tow. I remember the days at the beach or bumper to bumper on the 60 freeway and I only wanted to be driving him. In the end, I passed him on to my baby bro’ so he could continue the good times because one of us had to grow up.

—Connie M.

Toyota 4 Runner

A.A.'s Toyota 4 Runner

All my life I saw you approaching
My father’s vain and glory from ‘95,
Red and monstrous and stained
Until I got behind the wheel to drive.

If it wasn’t for one fateful morning
Rear ended by a hurried youth,
Toyota 4 Runner, now old and couth
You would be mine in Vain and Glory.


Fur mein Hans, a 1969 bug

Like all the cars
that joined our family
you were given a name
Yours was Hans Joachim
After all, a Volkswagon should be called something in
your native tongue
You taught me to drive
remembered to me German swear words long neglected
and were freedom
in an aging, always dirty white.

—Robyn Myers

Pontiac Sunfire
That my mom saw at a used car sale
In the Target parking lot
You were made for stealth
Speeding down the streets
Admired by onlookers

You were not made for an awkward
19-year-old kid
Too scared to drive on her own
Who scratched your front bumper against a gate
And who forgot to turn your headlights off
Where you died (but were revived) in another parking lot

—Leah W.

The Millenium Falcon

I called you the Millenium Falcon
Because every time someone saw you
They would say
“What a piece of junk!”
And you kinda were - rusting and dripping
No back seat - only pillows
Stick shift.
I stalled at every red light for months
And don’t talk to me about hills
But God, I loved you Because nobody in 1983 had anything like you
So I was cool-adjacent.

—Mara Alpert

Chevette, VW Squareback, Pontiac Sunfire

Chevette, VW Squareback, Pontiac Sunfire

In a 1981 Chevette,
in winter,
in a town of 8000 people,
the heater
only starts working
when you’ve already gone
anywhere there is to go.

—Mary McCoy

1963 Chevy II

It was once my parents’
And it drove just fine.
No seat belts, no head rests,
That wasn’t a crime.

A gallon of gas
was less than a quarter.
On vacation in Hawaii
It cost half a dollar.

—Janice Batzdorff

Metallic blue, chrome and steel
You’d been around 15 years when I slid behind your wheel
Dad found your owner at a bar in Garden Grove
Bought you for a Benjamin, and got on the road

Steering fluid leaked, power windows failed,
Seat was stuck a bit too close, leg cramps soon prevailed
Power locks broken, gas gauge was stuck
8-track worked great, I marveled at my luck
Friends laughed at the site of you
I often felt the fool
Twelve Guns N’ Roses stickers fit on your windows
So that was pretty cool

Montalban sung your praises
So, I guess you weren’t so bad
Oh ‘77 Chrysler Cordoba
The brief, weird times we had

—Christina Rice

VW Squareback, how I loved you so
affectionately named "Putty" because of your commonplace colour.

We took many a trip to the beach and back
with your sand filled brown and tan coco mats.

A Spring break trip to Palm Springs proved eventful
when the monsoon rains bent your wiper blades akimbo.

Oh, how I loved you, my very first car
even when my feet became soaked driving through puddles.

The best $650 dollars I have ever spent
such fond memories I will never forget.

—Rita Romero

Plymouth Horizon
Blasting The Pixies to school
Odor of used car

—Hillary St. George

Stay tuned for the next batch a week from today—same Bat-website, same Bat-blog.

*If you share your first car on social media make sure it's not a security question on any of your online accounts.