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Calculations

 

The siren of one ambulance

can destroy Samaritan attitudes

in a whole Chilean town,

so says Ivan Illich.

 

He could see where Illich was coming from

and wanted to be there too.

 

He was a passenger and knew next to nothing

of cars except sit tight and hold on around corners.

He was musing upon the perfection of maps

and measuring progress in inches and hours

when a swerve to miss a reckless cat

sent calculations flying off

at improbable angles.

He heard the ring of a thousand bells

and dreamt the longest kiss of his life.

 

He wondered which Chilean town was that

or did the contention hold good for all?

Had Ivan Illich witnessed

a general shrug of the shoulders?

Did the lapsed Samaritans cross to the other side

of the road more carefully than that cat?

Such questions made him dizzy and sick,  

then he remembered Illich

also said something like this:

 

If you add the time spent working to earn

the money to buy the automobile

to the time spent in the automobile

(including the traffic jams, of course)

to the time spent in the hospital

that followed the automobile crash

to the time spent discovering oil

to fuel every automobile

and divide it into the number of miles

driven in a single year

then the speed of each automobile

is just 3.7 miles per hour.

 

A light shone in his eyes

and people asked  his name.

 

At this rate he would never reach South America.