OLD SCHOOL

How much better off would we be
if every poet and wanna be were
compelled to write using only paper
and a quill pen dipped regularly
into a small glass inkwell?

You must wonder if we would see
more elegance, villanelles, sonnets,
and the other forms now lying jumbled
in the great literary waste bin.

What would we discover if left
to our own hand, words born
or twisted by coincidence or error,
no autocorrect function save
the endless manual revisions?

Perhaps this is the failure of much
of today’s poetry, but neither of us
is likely to find out, for this, like
so many others, was cast to pixels
on a device far smarter than I.

FOR NOW

Tomorrow this poem will
most assuredly no longer be here,
though when during the night
it will slip away, never again
to be seen, I don’t know or perhaps it
will return in a form I would not recognize,
recrafted by the hand of an unseen editor.

It may take on a meaning unfamiliar,
or translate itself into a tongue
that I can neither speak nor read,
or perhaps, most dreadedly, assume
the shape of prose, accreting words
until the embedded thought is bloated
and wholly unrecognizable.

Even if I tried to stop it, watched
carefully, it would no doubt
remind me that poems have a life
of their own once cast to paper
or pixels, and I am at best only
another editor or reader, and it
takes kindly on most days to neither.

I SPEND THE EMPTY HOURS

I spend considerable time thinking
about what it is that I am, what is I,
whether Descartes’ God or Spinoza’s
could possibly exist, or must if I can have
meaning beyond self-reflection, needing
a godly mirror, and image reflected.
Cogito, on what basis can I draw that conclusion
what logical proof, carefully constructed will
not fall under the weight of the axiom, cogito cogito
but of what? Keys that spit words that fade
under a misplaced finger, she caught in the web
twisting, unable to pull free, staring at
an approaching holiday of praying forgiveness
Vidui, as though to posit God is to validate
emotions, control impulses which leap synapses
and flit and fade, I have sinned and transgressed
I have violated laws and statutes and I beg
forgiveness that I might live, this I, this cogito
who has no external reference save God
which makes all things real, all illusion.
It is comforting knowing in death the soul is
carried on, thought lingers, or does it cease
such that I am not for I think not, yet why should
I fear, for when it is done, I will not have been
save as a reference point, a linchpin from which
may hang ornaments of a life, a tidy sum.

Publsihed in These Lines, Fall 2020
https://theselines.org/these-lines-1.1-fall-2020.pdf

BATTLESHIP

As a child I played Battleship
on a square grid, the ships marked
by hand, one for each of the players,
we were efficient by necessity.

My sons played Battleship, though
under a different name in deference
to my hatred of things martial,
on an electrically wired board.

My grandchildren haven’t yet
discovered the game, now played
on their iPads and iPhones, but it
is no doubt just a matter of time.

In Washington our president
plays the game with real ships
against China and Iran but it
is clear he doesn’t understand

how the game is played, and what
happens when you lose a ship,
but the sailors in the Navy know
all too well and dread the outcome

given his history in playing
against opponents who clearly
understand not only the rules
but also tactics and strategy.

AN E-TALE

I have been repeatedly told
by many that in this hyper-
electronic age, the best way, if
nit the only way, for the little guy
to buy and sell is online.

I’m not one to argue so
I decided to try it, and quickly
learned that Amazon had
cornered the market on sales
so Craigslist was my best hope.

I also learned that those willing
to pay anything near what an item
was worth didn’t bother with
Craigslist, but I didn’t care so I
listed under curb alerts, free

to anyone who wanted it, and
I stood by the curb for hours,
watched cars pull up slowly,
then drive quickly away, and
my heart is still unclaimed, searching.

PIXEL THIS

I have it on good authority,
supposedly, that the internet
will not he the death of me.

I have my sincere doubts, and
regardless, it has turned my world
on its head more than a bit.

In high school and college
I knew that a thick envelope
was an acceptance, a thin one

a letter telling me this or that
Ivy League school had a large
number of qualified candidates.

And as a poet, a thin letter was
acceptance, thick a return
of my work to trash or recycle.

Now both worlds are driven by
computer generated emails, and
I know the computer rejecting

my work in a kindly, if grammatically
inaccurate email never understood
the subtlety of my imagery at all.

ROBO

The phone is again ringing,
and the odds say it is someone
who wants to extend my warranty
on the car I no longer own,

or to lower my credit card interest
though I never carry a balance,
or to help me fix my computer if I
just hand over control to them.

I won’t answer this time, almost
never do unless I know the caller
and want to speak to them,
robocalls, despised as they are

do provide a convenient excuse
not to speak to the long lost friend
who only needs a short term loan,
or the charity always wanting more.

Many want the government to act,
to ban or limit these calls, and I
agree, but be prepared to answer
when I call about the money you promised.

TODAY, ALAS

Too much of what passes
for literature in these days is really
no more lasting than the evanescent
pixels from which it is created.

Books fade, pages crumble to dust
but that requires the passage of time
that our electronic world avoids
or simply refuses to acknowledge,

for history is something that lives
in storage, perhaps recalled, if still
viable, be very easily forgotten,
and compressed to save space.

Still I have my library of books,
and not once in recent memory
have I had to halt my reading
to recharge the printed pages.

As a young child I recall my mother
justifying all manner of disasters based
on miscommunication, mostly hers, by
saying, “Does Macy’s talk to Bloomingdale’s?”

I didn’t care, no one did and the excuse
never worked as far as I can tell, and I now
know from experience, that of course they
talked to each other, and today they are
owned by the same corporate overseer.

So why is it that I spent the better part
of my day trying to get my old iPhone
to speak nicely to my new Samsung phone?

I wasn’t asking much, just to share contacts
and photos, but they weren’t having it,
no how, now way, not never, so I
was left to turn to a mediator, and it
pained me to call in Microsoft, but they did
have a window on a solution, so they
thanks to their outlook got to have the last word.