Riding Off Into the Sunset: Final Odes to My First Car

Christa Deitrick, Librarian, Literature & Fiction Department,
The 110 freeway at twilight
The 110 freeway at twilight

It’s the last day of National Poetry Month, and what better way to close it out than by sharing the final batch of poems Los Angeles Public Library staff members wrote in honor of their first cars? The response was strong—40 poems in all—which proves that while we might hate traffic, the people of Los Angeles really love their cars! Thanks to everyone who participated on Instagram, both staff and public alike. Stay tuned for another poetry prompt coming up in May.

Now let’s ride off into the sunset with this final set of odes. Thank you, poets of LAPL! What a long strange trip it’s been...

VW 1600 TL (a.k.a. Fastback)

A VW, just like the Beetles my family owned
but this one a fastback, my Mom got me the loan
It was not special, or different but it ran
It sounded like nuts and bolts
rolling around in a tin can
The car took me to parties, to school and to work
And when it had gas in the tank,
that was really a perk
It did not last long but for its final song
I begged a junkyard to buy it
It drove only in 2nd and I asked
Could you please wreck it?
For 50 bucks they took it away
I had a smile on my face for the whole day.

—Sybil Blazej

Ouch! Jenny’s Saturn after the accident

You, My Saturn SL2 2002

You were out of this world by Saturn-
silver color, glistening in the sun in 2001 at Cerritos Auto Square,
four weeks after the 9-11 attack in NY.
You were a good deal for all your four doors;
the dealership was practically giving you away
with bonus, incentives and zero low APR.
You were the total package for your price:
leather seats, moonroof, rear spoiler, alloy wheels
and a CD player for my music commute.

You saved my life once or twice from accidents from other cars
(all are not my fault) with your dent resistant feature and structure.
You were named “Bessie”, with dings and scratches over the years
of my mishaps in lots, around trash cans
and with cars rear or side ending you.

You were heavily damaged in 2016,
when I was “T-boned” on passenger side by a millennial Lyft driver
along Glendale Boulevard, on my way home.
You were totaled by Mercury and my hubby meticulously
pieced you together since you were my first car.
You were sold months later to a grandpa
as a surprise gift to his college bound grandkid
because I was too scared to drive you again.

Goodbye Bessie, thanks for the memories…

—Jenny Taguines Cotejar

Madeline's Buick Riviera

So you think you can drive
This car?
The man asked.
16-year-old me sat in the driver’s seat
Of my dad’s
1968 Buick Riviera
But ready for my driving test.
I am licensed to DRIVE!

—Madeline Bryant

Vintage Honda Civic

Auto Requiem

Me? So excited.
I could hardly stand to wait.
Licensed since 17
with no wheels to escape.

You? More experienced.
Labeled vintage Honda Civic
With thousands of miles
and a past somewhat dubious.

Practical, not flashy,
And by no means cool.
You didn’t stop traffic.
No matter. Me, too!

What you gave me was freedom
To go explore on my own.
The open road calling,
Igniting desires to roam.

I remember with fondness
Blasting tunes post-concerts,
Watching sunsets move tides,
Daydreaming in slow traffic.

But as the years sped by,
We both got noisier, angrier,
And slower to respond.
Our good times stalled, gasping, gone.

It was inevitable, destined.
My future required more.
More accommodation, reliability,
Safety I couldn’t ignore.

With tired tread and battery left,
My father sympathized.
He cared for you as best he could.
A proper salvage demise.

—Kathryn Ing

1965 Plymouth Valiant

Oh Valiant Grape

You were already old. I
was young and
ready to roll. You
overheated everywhere.
Once on the way west
to Venice,
you started to smoke.
Sweating buckets, I
refilled your radiator.
Steam billowed.
As cars zipped by, you

You always got me
from here to there,
but within one year,
you were dead.
church bells pealed.
Oh Valiant Grape,
had I killed you
with my youthful

—Erica Silverman

1981 Datsun 810 Station Wagon

Mi chatarrita móvil

¡Oh mi chatarrita móvil!
Cuántos momentos de emoción trajiste a mi vida
Cuántos recuerdos
Cómo olvidar a mis amigas empujándote en la subida de la Lincoln mientras cantábamos Corazón Partío
o bajo la oscuridad de la noche en la Luperón cantando Perdóname
Cómo no sonreír cuando recuerdo las tantas veces que me dejaste en medio de la calle
Se acabó la gasolina, se dañó el carburador, la batería está muerta
En el Malecón, en la Feria, en la Zona Colonial
Yo era la clienta favorita en la calle de los mecánicos

Eras bello
De tres colores
Tu cuerpo gris, tus puertas morenas, tu puerta trasera blanca
Eras bueno
Me llevabas a todas partes
Sobrevivimos juntos dos accidentes
Eras grande
Podía llenarte de materiales de oficina, de risas de amigos, del amor de mi familia, de besos de amores
Eras único
Y yo era única gracias ti

—Madeline Peña

RTD TheRide Bus

My first car was the RTD
So many summers in the sun
Waiting for the bus to arrive
I could ride all over LA,
(If I had the whole day)
From the valley to the beach,
Or just down the street...
Will it show up this time?
Maybe I’ll walk.

—Laura D.

Pontiac Lemans

Cloudless summer night
Pontiac Lemans’ mute flight
Steel and stone ignite

—Nicholas Moran

Tina's Ford Mustang

Ride Sally Ride: Ode to My First Car

I made a new friend the day I turned 16. Her name was Sally, and she showed up in my driveway that bright July morning. She was a blue 1967 Ford Mustang. My father showed me how to pump gas, and immediately she and I set off on a series of great misadventures.

She asked little of me but petrol and oil, and in return I pumped her full of mix tapes and blew out her speakers. At first we cautiously just drove back and forth to school, giving kids rides out to lunch. Soon enough we began to take the surf punk kids to the skate park, and the new wave kids to Phases; the Valley’s hottest new wave rock dance club. I once piled in nine friends to go to Magic Mountain, bottoming out on every bump and turn in the road. Another time, sunburnt and giddy, four friends and I drove home topless. Boy did the gossip fly the next day at school, even though we all swore secrecy. I know Sally didn’t spill!

The freedom Sally gave me was at times hard to fathom. I could have left home if I had wanted to, just driven away without ever stopping. I never did, but I fantasized about it many times, mad, crying, and lonely in my room in the way only a 16-year-old girl can do. It’s funny how much a car can truly be like a BFF.

—Tina Lerno

Geo Metro

Ode to a Geo Metro

Mi little Geo Metro
At first I thought you were nothing but a flea
But looking back at all those special moments
Filled to capacity with friends
Laughter pouring out your windows
Driving up the 101 to San Francisco
The City I adore
Riding with my baby girl
Singing loud and singing proud
A song of blossoming young motherhood
Looking back I am amazed
At all the love
That a little flea can be.

—Lupie Leyva

Metro Red Line, 7th Street Station


Oh Metro
my ride and die,
my limo,
my nap ride
helping me get home safely from school to work.
Sometimes I see you pass by and still remember the good and the bad times
you take me back to memory lane
to late nights of writing papers
studying for exams and
running to the stop bus before you left because I overslept
and hearing music on my earphones while looking at the scenery
feeling like a royal on a carriage.
Thank you for the rides
and memories.

—Jacqueline R. M.

1967 VW Beetle (and two cats)

In the parking lot of my Downy teenage dreams
 By the muscle cars, flexing on the asphalt seams
Yes, the magnificent fins of the El Dorado
 Standing high school skinny in their shadow
I mean three on a tree, vibrasonic, bitchen cams by Isky
Bandini drag races … Rebel Without a Cause risky
Tuck and Roll bench seats done in TJ
All this motor glory was to be mine some day
But my glory day was not to be so
I took the four wheels a bit more slow
No Catholic school girls on the bench seat
Not the rumbling bass of a Motown beat
After school I marched past the Detroit steel
To a less horsepower and more teutonic feel
It was a VW Beetle

—Glen Creason

Moyra and Doris

FIAT named Doris
Green little lemon cutie
First car late bloomer

—Moyra Morrone

1990 Toyota Corolla


A 1990 Toyota Corolla
Was given a name worthy of its state
Dinosaur, oh dinosaur
My beloved old dinosaur
You were my father’s most trusted car
so old and broken
Such a classic car
Full of scars
A few near death experiences
Still livid in my mind
Those terrifying moments
Now a recollection of time
Taught me worthy life lessons
For generations to come
You served me well till we had to part ways
A newer version of you now roams these streets
The very own where we used to be
These memories I promise
I’ll keep till the end
I hold them dear
For in you
My beloved
I was taught to drive.


Huge shout-out to Al Linton from the Art, Music & Recreation Department for his enthusiasm, grace, and mad Insta skills! And thanks to Mary McCoy and David Kelly for facilitating this.

If you share your first car on social media make sure it's not a security question on any of your online accounts. Images courtesy of the authors or Wikimedia Commons.