Monday, May 19, 2014


image borrowed from google


“Speed, it seems to me, provides the one
genuinely modern pleasure.”--Aldous Huxley.

I am here to tell you,
speed can be an opiate.
I experienced a taste of it
driving beater muscle cars during the 60’s,
blasting more than 100 m.p.h.
             at two in the morning, on
                       whatever that day’s designated
                                              urban drag strip was;
Dual quads,
400 horsepower,
4-speed transmission,
bald tires,
shitty brakes,
no posi-traction,
no good sense,
              mere inches from
                                  danger, even
but a couple of stiff speeding & reckless driving tickets
sobered me up like a quick dip in an ice pond;

but what that screaming, highly revved time
did for me was to help me fully understand 
other’s cravings for speed, even 
those obsessed folks who have to prove
that wheeled vehicles, without leaving the ground,
                                     without leaping into the sky
                                     without piercing the stratosphere
can now achieve supersonic speeds.

It all started in August 1902
in Albis-St. Arnoult, France
where American William K. Vanderbilt
drove a Mors at 76.08 m.p.h.

Then a fellow named Malcolm Campbell got into the fray;
in 1926 he drove a 350 h.p. Sunbeam at 150.87 m.p.h.,
in 1928 at Daytona Beach he drove the Blue Bird at 206.96 m.p.h.,
& in 1935 on the Bonneville Salt flats driving Blue Bird at 301.39 m.p.h.,
close to the limits of internal combustion engines.

In August 1963
Craig Breedlove on the Bonneville Salt Flats
drove the turbojet Spirit of America at 407.44 m.p.h.;
returning there in 1965 to drive at 555.48 m.p.h. 

Today, the Guinness World land speed record
was set in October 1997, out on the Black Rock Desert,
where RAF fighter pilot Andy Green
drove the Thrust SSC turbofan 
at an astonishing 763.03 m.p.h.;

but wouldn’t you know, this isn’t enough 
for the plucky Andy Green, who in 2015 
will travel to the NW corner of South Africa,
where his team is already working with 
special laser-guided precision graders 
to create a perfect surface.

He will drive a multi-million dollar 7 ton supersonic vehicle
called the Bloodhound SSC, 
a jet & rocket powered monster
rated at 187,000 horse power,
designed to go faster than 1,000 m.p.h.
at Mach 1.4, faster than a bullet 
fired out of a .357 Magnum.

So all ye speed freaks out there,
                          let’s start praying right now
                                             for a successful run;
hoping that pilot daredevil Andy Green
will not crash through death’s door
before he shatters his own speed record. 

Glenn Buttkus

Posted over on dVerse Poets Poetics

Would you like to hear the author read this poem to you?


Mary said...

An interesting quote, Glenn! It truly is amazing, isn't it that on-land 'fast' was 76 m.p.h. back in 1902 and now they are approaching 1,000 m.p.h. There is something about speed, isn't there? But it is relative. If I walk 5 m.p.h. I think I am going fast! Smiles.

Gabriella said...

You have packed your poem with fascinating information. We have gone far since that first speed record in 1902. I am sure that the safety rules for trying to go faster than 1,000 mph are drastic or the guy would just die shattered by mere speed.

Brian Miller said... def seductive...fastest i have ever gone is 135 in a police cruiser on the way to a break in...i was sure i was going to die...but at the same time i loved the adrenaline....amazing what once was thought to be the top speed as well....

Björn Rudberg said...

First of all Glenn... I'm reading a brave new world currently.. so the context where it's taken is something I know of... still amazing and what you need to do just to break that record.. I can to some extent understand the fascination.. but our own boundaries are important..

Victoria said...

When Mary told the team what the prompt was going to be, I immediately thought of you. And who would think you could give us such a history of speed. Glad you survived your wild years, Glenn. And now we are slowing down, heh?

Anonymous said...

I say 'coke' and you have to 'coke' with someone,but 'speed' and you 'speed' alone. Very good Glenn. >

Claudia said...

oh heck... cool speed history lesson here... the world of cars and races - oy - 220 km/hour was the fastest i ever went - in a car driven by my crazy boyfriend in a bmw sports car - personally, i prefer to go slow...smiles

ayala said...

An interesting quote and a good lesson. Enjoyed it.

Sherry Blue Sky said...

Oh my goodness, I had no idea such speeds were possible........this is an interesting retrospective, Glenn. Thanks. Yoiks, though - one thousand mph is too darned fast!

jo-hanna said...

You have lived a little, haven't you?
I agree though, speed does give you a buzz. For me only on a bike, nothing as dramatic as yours. But even so, it can be exhilirating.

Anonymous said...

I am put in mind of Nevil Shute's 'On the Beach' where Australian men engage in death races because they know that they will either die doing that, or die from the radiation slowly making its way down from the Northern hemisphere. Great poem, Glenn.

Walt Wojtanik said...

Reinforcing the need for speed, Glenn! I agree that the quote chosen is indeed interesting! A grand choice!

Heaven said...

That's record to break & very fearless of him to attempt to do so ~ I think the thoughts of death and a very stiff fines are enough to keep us driving moderately ~

Good one Glenn ~

Anonymous said...

Such a driven poem and wow!!!

What inspired you to write this incredible piece?

Wolfsrosebud said...

and did your mother know... or was she a speed queen too

Margaret said...

My grandmother would reminisce about my grandfather and his love for his pacers (horses) way back in the late 1800's. He also was one of the first to buy a car… Fascinating information - makes me just shake my head trying to understand.

Sumana Roy said...

"no good sense,
mere inches from
danger, even
death,"...very wise lines...i don't understand what's the use of squandering money on breaking records? God bless that Green man...

vivinfrance said...

Rather you than me, Glen, and I'm really glad you're still here to tell us about it!

Marina Sofia said...

I can understand the exhilaration of speed - it scares me yet it fascinates me. Must be the closest we get to flying.
I love the way you make your poetry so educational and teach us new things all the time!

Laurie Kolp said...

It definitely is a thrill I no longer wish to have... guess my age has lightened my foot on the gas pedal.

John Thomas Dodds said...

alas, I'm relegated to sauntering by the lakeshore and walking anywhere I need to go - more (horse)power to you though.

Anonymous said...

Crazy! So many dare devils--you've written about them very convincinly! Don't get a ticket! K.

Anonymous said...

those old V8's could rocket down the road - been over 120 many a time, and remain amazed I am still alive.

Speed, makes us feel alive - everything else dulls in comparison..