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Page 237

Or one may not be anyone to begin with, write only
in borrowed, unchanging voices, pouring out rhymed lyrics
("Youth" and "Spring"), underground rants, sadly wry
academic eloquences in which factory-produced symbologies
mime passions – all the usual suspects (with academics
being highest on the suspecking order).

Why should a poet do what a machine can do better?
You can talk endlessly without danger of being usurped
if you aren't there to begin with. Let your fingers
do the gagging, let your machinery to the talking.
(Let the lingerers do the gawking?)

And all this, perhaps, is MY machinery. You've been fooled
(poor, plastic you, extruded from my pronoun machine)
into thinking someone is here. Thank you for touring
my Turing Machine.

No, you haven't been fooled. I am here (I tell myself).
You are here (I tell myself?). I will take a walk now and
notice things. (Since my fingers won't do the walking,
I carry them along on our walk.)

("Let your fingers do the walking" through YELLOW pages,
say the ads. If these words have lasted long enough to peer at you, my peer,
from yellowing paper, I've done well...but be gentle with me –
I'm brittle!)

I took a walk and noticed trees and houses.
Now here's the page, and scribble scribble scribble.
"Hello," I say, and "You" – good bait...no nibble.
The magnetism's gone. Glibness degausses
The pull of pronouns, presidents and spouses.
Say something bold; puncture a hoary shibbol-
-Eth. Make something POP and fizzle – any squib'll.
Build huge and pregnant chords, like Richard Strauss's
In "Thus Spake Zarathustra"; make smart talk,
Like cocktail chatter, urbane, arch and arty –
Fake knowing why you're here, and NEVER gawk
At the parade of tinseled words, bared breasts – let's PARTY!
[I don't know – whadda YOU wanna do, Marty?]
I think it's time to take a longer walk,
Touch toads and mossy trees, grow gnarled and warty.
(It's so...official! Words decked out in sonnets,
All my thoughts in fancy Easter bonnets:
"Today's a special day!" Some talk is poetry –
And does it take a special spot to grow a tree?)
[I think that I shall never never
Find on a page a God worth rever-
-Ing, yet forever I'll endeavor,
In the faith that I end never.
Quoth I, raving, "Ain't I clever!"
Never! More? But never the less,
In verse I'll strive to effer-the-vesce.]

Note: Stanza 2: "Let your fingers do the gagging" – mimics telephone company ads for the Yellow Pages: "Let your fingers do the walking."

Stanza 3: "Thank you for touring my Turing machine." Alan Turing, British cryptographer (known for his work in World War II at decoding enemy transmissions) postulated a machine that could pass for human (as poetry machinery sometimes masquerades as a human voice). Turing had the idea of testing such machines by putting them behind black curtains (or some enclosure), having people address questions to them and receive back (in some form) answers, then see if they could detect the answers were coming from a machine.

The last section above begins with a sonnet (which should end at the line "I think it's time to take a longer walk", but keeps going, still, more or less, in sonnet format, for another 5 lines to become more meander than walk, then shifts (in brackets) to 4-beat lines (tetrameter), mimicking Joyce Kilmer's "I think that I shall never see/ A poem as lovely as a tree", then slips into Poe's "The Raven" and, given the temptations to subside in a torrent of gibberish, ends rather well, I think.

The sonnet's theme has to do with being there in order to communicate, and one way to get oneself there (here) in present time is to take a walk, look at things, touch things. In my overstuffed sonnet, I didn't take a long enough walk, apparently, because trying to create big effects on the page is like pretending to enjoy a boring, incomprehensible party. It also deals with one of the stumbling blocks (or writers' blocks), the idea that specialness must be discovered beyond whatever specialness we can create. I chose to abuse the sonnet form here (burst it open at the end, like the effervescence of champagne popping the cork) because its strict form is, for some, a machine for imposing specialness.

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