a mandated-vocabulary poem based on a car-financing ad furnished by Maggie Robbins

But thanks for driving and not looking
too surprised. You’ve considered what one makes
of a possibility that time and a lease provided.
At home, looking at yourself, you can see
why it’s just not right to be a couple now.
A home is an extremely attractive but limited thing.

You’ve been downright generous with your cars
(your expensive cars)—even authorized credit
for a new corporation. But never one authorized dealer
in affordable information.

So you looked at a new program of leasing,
at different available leases you or a dealer
might obtain anytime. You say you’ve considered
driving a lot, taking a call, a visit (if only from them).
Driving by, you might look different,
more at home.

—Max Cavitch


Max Cavitch is a professor of English and Comparative Literature at the University of Pennsylvania, where he is also Co-director of the Psychoanalytic Studies program. He wrote “Driving By” having been presented with a newspaper ad for a car-financing company by his friend Maggie Robbins, who challenged him to turn it into a poem by rearranging the words in the ad, using all of them, without exception, and without adding any other words (except in the title). When not engaged in “constrained writing,” he lets loose in books and essays on a variety of topics, edits the blog Psyche on Campus, and contributes to the public-science project iNaturalist.