Thoreau’s Nightmare

(a student reflection on Thoreau’s ideas)

We pull out of Starbucks,
the coffee capitol
crouched in the elbow
of an intersection.
Cars impatiently honk—
and crisscross one another’s path,
drivers cursing
through bared teeth.
Their angst makes the light
click green again,
and my mother’s car slides forward
through the sticky molasses
of polluted air.

I crank my arm and roll open the window.
A low flying jet,
engine screaming,
rips through the air—
as the line of cars stops once again,
and a pedestrian scuttles along a crosswalk.
I crane my neck to watch the plane,
and the drivers accelerate—
only to be jerked in their seats to another halt.

As the sub-woofers
of a hundred cars rush by
and around the bend—
and careen out of sight,
two perfect Concordians,
crisp in white blouses
and black knee length skirts,
sidle up the road,
oblivious to the crying of the street.

Don’t they see the distortion
of the history,
the beauty and the tranquility?
Don’t they feel the tight fist
of chaos, of hurried crosswalks
and spilled coffee
of stifling, poison air?

Don’t they hear
~ Allison Rittershaus

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27 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Riley
    Nov 02, 2010 @ 07:43:23

    I like this poem because its from the writers point of view, like he thinks of Starbucks as the coffee capitol. But i think it uses way, way, way to much description, but other than that its a great poem!

  2. Chris
    Nov 02, 2010 @ 10:53:17

    I think that it is from thoreau’s prospective but at our time period.

  3. Kayla
    Nov 02, 2010 @ 11:57:47

    I think this poem is about Thoreau having a nightmare about pollution and about the earth, I think this because when we looked up Thoreau he really loved the earth and did not want anyone to pollute or harm it. Also when it says engine screaming, that is a personification. Also when it says i rolled up the window, I think that the car might be old because when you roll up the window with your arm. I also really loved this poem because it had discriptive language and had cool sound effects. Although at the beginning I did not really understand. Then when some other people shared I finally got an exelent image.

  4. Chris
    Nov 02, 2010 @ 12:03:43

    i think that its called thoreaus nightmare becuase he loves the enviorment and it says my mother’s car slides forward
    through the sticky molasses of polluted air. also because of the last stanza were it says
    Don’t they see the distortion of the history, the beauty and the tranquility?Don’t they feel the tight fistof chaos, of hurried crosswalks and spilled coffee of stifling, poison air? i think that that he thinks that they dont care about the earth or the pollution. i think that the poet looked at this from thoreaus perspective and modified it to our time becuase im pretty sure that they didnt have starbucks or subwoofers during his lifetime.

  5. Kaelee
    Nov 02, 2010 @ 12:04:39

    I like this poem because it is from the writers point of view as if he is Henry David Thoreau a person who liked nature and did not want anyone to pollute or harm the environment he said he was at Starbucks and when he was not alive when Starbucks was made.

  6. Spencer
    Nov 02, 2010 @ 12:16:59

    I think this poem is about a teenager coming out of Starbucks and getting into his car. After he gets into his car he pulls out into an intersection and waits for a really long time until the light turns green.
    The poem has a lot of sound effects like waaaaank, vrrrriiiiiish, and crrooooomeeek.

  7. sean
    Nov 02, 2010 @ 12:21:27

    I liked this poem but I couldn’t really understand it. It had a lot of good use of language. In some parts it kind of lost me like when it was talking about Starbucks and then it just started getting off topic because it started talking about a highway and all of the cars. Maybe that’s because I didn’t get to hear the whole class talk about the poem. But all in all I thought it was a good poem.

  8. Brendan
    Nov 02, 2010 @ 12:29:16

    I think this is someones nightmare. I think this because the tittle is “Thoreau’s Nightmare” I think the nightmare is about pollution. i I think pollution is a fear for this prson because when we looked him up, we learned that Thoreau was an environmentalist. I also really like the onomatopoeia used in this poem.

  9. joshua
    Nov 02, 2010 @ 12:29:19

    I think that the Thoreau person is the nature guy and that it is his nightmare is that humans have let themself go and poluted the earth. I was wondering what the starbuckes thing is and why they mentioned it. Maybe they were talking about that back when Thoreau was alive they did’nt have starbuckes. I think that when the poet Allison Rittershaus says the air is full of poison that they are saying that the cars are poluting the air.

  10. Shelby
    Nov 02, 2010 @ 12:31:59

    In this poem there is a lot of sound affects, such as, waaaaaaank, vrrriiiiiiissssssh, and toomtoomwoomtoom. Thoreau is a really peaceful person and he loves nature. So, I think it is a kid talking about what Thoreau’s nightmare would be like in this time, what would be pollution and cars, cars because of the poisonous gas. I think if Thoreau lived in our time he would be disappointed in all of us people and how we do not care about the earth and do not care if the earth gets poisoned. I think it is kind of rude of those woman walking because they do not care and do not hear the noise and see the pollution. I liked this poem because it is about real life and it was about a dream and how rude some people are.

  11. meghan
    Nov 02, 2010 @ 16:56:53

    Now that I know who Thoreau is I understand this poem a lot better than I did before. I found out that he like to be in nature and this poem talks about pollution. If he had a dream about this poem it would be a nightmare for him because he is a nature lover , and he would probably not like the pollution.

  12. Giselle
    Nov 02, 2010 @ 17:40:07

    Like I said when we were doing Poem of the Day, I think the poet (Allison Rittershaus) of the poem is looking through Thoreau’s eyes and since he loved the out doors and nature it was really hurtful to see the traffic jams and when it says “and my mother ‘s car slides forward through the sticky molasses of polluted air.) I also think that instead of the poet looking through Thoreau’s eyes he could have had a nightmare. I thought of this because as I was reading the poem I payed a little bit more attention to the title and that was what gave me my second idea of the poem. Thoreau’s nightmare could be about when he sees the future that has cars polluting air, people paying no attention when crossing the street, and people not realizing everything that is going on. I also agree with Shelby about the poem having a lot of onomatopoeia and sound effects. I think this poem is a good poem because of the language and the being there experience it made me have when I read this poem and I really know what I am talking about when I say this poem has a lot of descriptive language because I read it out loud and it I have to admit it was sort of hard.

  13. Sonia
    Nov 02, 2010 @ 20:14:05

    I think this poem is about the poet realizing how busy and polluted our world is. I think they named it Thoreau’s Nightmare because if David Henry Thoreau saw our world or this scene he would have been shocked, and it would have been like I nightmare for him because he cared about the environment a lot.

    I also think the setting is a city, near a Starbucks, because it says they were pulling out of a Starbucks. Maybe, it is the morning and people are impatient and don’t want to wait to cross the street (hence “Don’t they feel the tight fist of chaos, of hurried crosswalks and spilled coffee”).

    I also agree with many people who say it has a lot of metaphors, smilies, and vivid language because the almost whole third paragraph is a giant metaphor. It also has good, but sometimes confusing, word choice because while we were discussing the poem a lot of people had to look words up in the dictionary because the didn’t know what they meant and the words may have been a key part of the poem.

  14. Sarah. :3
    Nov 02, 2011 @ 07:32:08

    I think this poem is about a boy named Thoreau, and how he hates pollution. My evidence for Thoreau hating pollution is in the part where it says, ‘Don’t they feel the tight fist of chaos, of hurried crosswalks
    and spilled coffee of stifling, poison air?’ I believe that what the character in this poem means by ‘stifling, poison air’ is pollution. I also think Thoreau is sick of all the trouble in the world, and my evidence for that is the fourth stanza, where it says, ‘Don’t they see the distortion of the history, the beauty and the tranquility?’ I also think there are two girls are crying, but no one is helping them and that makes Thoreau even more angry about the world, and how no one realizes that they should get in gear and help the two girls. Another thing is I think Thoreau wants to change the world; no pollution, etc. (;


  15. Alex D.
    Nov 03, 2011 @ 16:27:14

    tranquility = free from agitation or disturbance, quiet, serene, placid, peaceful!
    Pedestrian = person crossing the street!
    Scuttles = scurry, scamper!
    concordant = agreement, harmony!

  16. Skylar
    Nov 02, 2012 @ 08:58:11

    I bought starbucks today and in the first stanza it says ” We pull out of starbucks, the coffee capitol.”

  17. Karla
    Nov 02, 2012 @ 09:02:47

    I like how it says “We pull out of Starbucks, the coge capital,”

  18. William
    Nov 02, 2012 @ 09:03:55

    I think this poem is about a city because it said “polluted air”.

  19. Karla
    Nov 02, 2012 @ 09:05:26

    Oops!!!I meant “The coffee capital,”

  20. Lucas
    Nov 02, 2012 @ 09:06:27

    Tim Hortons is better if you go to Canada go to Tim Hortons. What is a elbow of a intersection

  21. Skylar
    Nov 02, 2012 @ 09:08:47

    Like Meghan now that I know who Thoreau is I under stwnd the poem more

  22. Skylar
    Nov 02, 2012 @ 09:12:46

    Oopps! I ment under stand

  23. Karla
    Nov 02, 2012 @ 09:19:27

    Oops,I meant to say”The coffee capital,”

    • Rose
      Nov 02, 2012 @ 20:02:13

      Karla, your 2 has to be written like, “Two.” 😀 😀 😀

  24. Karla
    Nov 02, 2012 @ 09:24:45

    Sorry, I did not mean to post my comment 2 times once again SORRY;)!

  25. Faith
    Nov 02, 2012 @ 15:47:46

    I like the use of onomatapia in this poem and I think that the character’s mom in this poem got into a car accicent or had a bad incident. I think that because of the sound effects in the text. Skylar I had a sip of your Starbucks drink and I think that is a werid coincedence because the poem is talking about Starbucks in the first stanza, just like what Skylar. I think that this poem is edvice for some parents that don’t pay any attention where they are going, sometimes.:)

    I am very sad that Brighton is leaving because I have known him sense kindergarten so that is very sad to see him leave. I hope that he meets a lot of new friends at his new school and that his grandpa gets much better. I will never forget about Brighton as long as I live!

    I also like how it says that they pull into Starbucks, the coffee capital because a lot of people go to Starbucks!

  26. Rose
    Nov 02, 2012 @ 20:00:12

    I notice that there is like five sound effects in a five stanza poem. when it says,
    “and my mother’s car slides forward
    through the sticky molasses
    of polluted air,” that does not really make sense to me and it does not fit in that stanza. This is not the best poem I’ve read, and I do not like it at all. 😀 🙁 😀

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