Detachment (a draft)

“When we found them initially,

hopping around in a lab

homely & ungainly & quite ordinary,

it seemed their behaviours were

written into genes like automatons

– though that may not be the perfect analogy.

or

Animals, surely. The defenceless victims

of our increasingly elaborate experiments.

Small, furry, the kind of four-legged friend

that you would happily gift to a child as a pet,

someone happy with their predictability,

the running in a little plastic wheel.


No.

But surely not.

We aren’t talking about animals at all.

If we were, they would not be the perfect analogy.

…

“Later, we set them free at night

to get a clear picture of their wanderings,

giving them no choice but to travel

– both escaping and then the coming back.

Being able to experiment like this

simply underscores how far we’ve come!”

or

Put aside the temptation of the literal,

the image of the micro-chipped Furries

as they scamper around, shitting little pellets

on the free range outside their cage.

And then in the morning, keyboard-hunched,

to crunch the data, produce graphs and

maps with coloured trace lines based on GPS data.

How much progress is that?

Why, for example, would they come back.

What would draw them? Food? Water?

Are these prized above freedom?


For the sake of analogy, let us set other things free. 

Why not words?

[Or paint, perhaps. It could be paint. You get the picture…]

Words that leave us, wander and travel;

words that escape their automaton lives

to be given the chance to be something new, fresh,

made into something wonderful;

words that return to us, embrace re-incarceration

because they know they can go again,

be freed again in a different incantation.


Occasionally we might look at the maps (sic) 

we and they make

and cry “how far we’ve come!”

…

Invisible are the changes that imperil migrants 

on journeys that once would have been romantic:

the addiction to the mythological,

how the shimmer of the water grew softer,

how they worked swiftly to cast a fine net

onto still and bountiful seas.

or

So not migrants or travellers then -

though one has to admit the image is a nice one,

drawing a parallel between our caged friends

and those who truly have no choice by escape.


But if our words are the travellers, what then?

Has the romance been lost from writing,

the soft shimmering waters replaced by something

industrial, rigid, mechanical?

Where do we cast our nets still if not into bountiful seas?

…

Striving to be first in a jumble of datasets,

we explore questions in unprecedented detail,

create complex algorithms for calculators,

stressing ourselves over lattes and amaretti

at the latest death rate numbers 

– a nail-biter because the battery was failing.

or

Overcome by analysis, the cross-examination of results,

we seek patterns - and answers in the patterns.

There must be meaning in these ‘datasets’

and in the meaning truth - with a capital ’T’.

Even feigning detachment, the casual perusal,

our stress should come from the output,

the potential we might not complete our analysis,

that our results are unworthy of our efforts.


Yet where is our greatest fear?

It is in the calculator or computer or mouse,

disaster ensuing if we found the battery was failing?

…

 

About this poem.

This is an experiment. Below is the poem I started with which, I thought, was OK in it’s own right. But then I decided to play with adding an interpretation – a poem with a poem almost – to try and start to bring out the potential depth and complexities of the piece.

The idea arose when reading/listening to others’ poems recently and finding that there were things behind the text that were only known to the author. They were private, but crucial to understanding. Under those circumstances how was the reading supposed to get to where they were reading heading?

On that basis, the above is a kind of deconstruction: “this is what I said – and this is what I meant”… Multiple sub-layers of context and analysis, more poems-within-poems would of course be possible. And interesting.

“When we found them initially,

hopping around in a lab

homely & ungainly & quite ordinary,

it seemed their behaviours were

written into genes like automatons

– though that may not be the perfect analogy.

 

“Later, we set them free at night

to get a clear picture of their wanderings,

giving them no choice but to travel

– both escaping and then the coming back.

Being able to experiment like this

simply underscores how far we’ve come!”

 

Invisible are the changes that imperil migrants 

on journeys that once would have been romantic:

the addiction to the mythological,

how the shimmer of the water grew softer,

how they worked swiftly to cast a fine net

onto still and bountiful seas.

 

Striving to be first in a jumble of datasets,

we explore questions in unprecedented detail,

create complex algorithms for calculators,

stressing ourselves over lattes and amaretti

at the latest death rate numbers 

– a nail-biter because the battery was failing.

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