The Cars' Greatest Hits

A poem by Stephen Burt

When everything is artificial, everything
is equally sincere.

I was a ridiculous child,
tall tree made of cloth in my ear.

I got a hold on you, you’re all
I’ve got tonight, you might think I’m delir-

ious, but all I want is you—
How the rankest cliche can please if you can
put yourself where it’s what you hoped to hear.

Hexagonal drum pads, Pac-Man tones and tunes
as slick as waterslides
in a summer New England characterized

by who’s got a crush on who,
lo-res graphics & kisses on acrylic collars
presented as mysteries to revere—

although you can’t go on
thinking nothing’s wrong
is right

enough, if you have the right shades,
if you let somebody else steer.

If you synthesize your confidence, the more
you make up the less you have to fear.

Thank you for making 1984
as good as any other year.


STEPHEN BURT is Professor of English at Harvard. He is the author of Close Calls with Nonsense: Reading New Poetry (2009) and other books. His work appears in The New York Times, Slate, and elsewhere.

Photo credit: Alex Dakoulas

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