LIKE many people (most people?), I have always wanted to write bumper stickers. However, I was not willing to invest the money and effort to print my messages, so my ambition languished.
Then, several years ago, I took a new job as a gossip columnist for my local newspaper. In this role, I was to invent fake gossip (as actual gossip might offend the townsfolk). In my column, which is called "Heard by a Bird," I began to transcribe amusing bumper stickers I saw on Main Street, like this:
and pretend they were real - just as Jorge Luis Borges suggested it was superior to write reviews of imaginary books, rather than actually write the books. I would create, if not true bumper stickers, then the rumor of bumper stickers.
My early bumper stickers were often rural. Phoenicia is a center of fly-fishing, which led me to invent slogans like If Fishing Is a Religion, I'm a Bishop and I've Been Fishing So Long, My Worm Gets Social Security. Gradually I ventured into politics, hiding behind the anonymity of my form: Stupidity + Rage = War. I also began reading the Northern Sun catalog, which sells "T-shirts, bumper stickers, buttons, posters, etc., covering a wide variety of issues." Many of its slogans, I noticed, are parodies of other slogans. I began to play this game, too:
If Thought Is Outlawed, Only Outlaws Will Have Thoughts. Warning: I Brake for Chinese Restaurants. Don't Blame Me - I Voted for Britney Spears. This Bumper Sticker Is Covering Up My Last Bumper Sticker.
Eventually I realized: bumper stickers are the haiku of the American highway. Could one such slogan actually be a haiku? I turned this thought itself into a haiku:
Why Can't a Bumper
I am proudest of my one attempt to spread goodness through the world:
I Transferred Out of the School of Hard Knocks
Here are a few other bumper stickers I have written over the years. I encourage everyone to become one of the proud, nameless writers of adhesive rectangular wisdom. It's easy: just write down your entire philosophy of life - then remove everything but nine words.
Sparrow, a poet, is the author of the forthcoming "America: A Prophecy." Art Chantry is a graphic designer.
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