Offline processing

Offline processing

This poem existed as only the opening line for a long time...  I knew how I wanted it to feel, but not what I wanted it to be about.

It was only when I realised I needed a reason for her working all night on her own that it really came together.

Q.  Why isn't she off living her life?
A.  Because she hasn't got a life!

Or rather that is the cliché...  what her less technologically super-powered coworkers might think of her.

We know better, of course...

Offline processing

Gemma cracks a subroutine, her coffee cool.
Beyond night-mirrored windows she's aware
strip lighting makes a tableau out of her:
"Geek girl working late"
as the small white card would say
in the museum of her life
if she had one.

How Gemma's fingers blur with cramping speed
the body cannot serve the mind
it's need for harder, better, faster, stronger...
data flows, information not only wanting to be free
but it aching for it
and now another bug is falling to the power

that is Gemma. She does not look up at the clock
because hours are not for those
who live the millisecond slice.
Life is still too short
the icing on the cake is still a lie.

Gemma cracks a subroutine
electric death music in her ears
and she would volunteer
for upgrade in a second
for what is flesh, except strangely implemented:
a mesh of biochemic feedback loops
which she could live without,
still... time for a break.

Gemma takes a moment, smokes a quick one
on the roof and on this summer's night
leans back upon the coping stones
the city's haze and wasted light
do not let many stars burn through;
she knows they're there
not quite within her reach.

The breeze stirs Gemma's hair
and she imagines for a second
a human hand, a voice that asks:
"Are you really going to work all night?"

Well of course she is;
as long as there are bugs in the database,
she will dance the dance of general intelligence
applied to Turing complete.
As long as somewhere, impossibly far ahead,
the Omega Point is waving
as long as there is coffee in the machine

Gemma will reach for another subroutine.


What kind of talk is that?

I posted a preliminary version of this during NaPoWriMo back in April, but since then I've revised it a bit, and also I read it at Gorilla Poetry to general approval so I feel reasonably happy with calling it "finished".

This is not about what it is ostensibly about obviously so, because if language did not exist then the poem couldn't either.  So where this comes from is my dissatisfaction with overly-academic analysis of literary subjects (in contrast to my mockery of under academic treatment in some other areas...) 

Basically what I am saying here is, never ask me for an "artist's statement" on a poem, because I'll say something like "I tried to get the right words in the right order..." and completely mean it.

Language is a phenomenon backed by the full sophistication of the human brain, and the utter incomprehensibility of the human psyche, only a god could actually analyse it meaningfully; everybody else is faking...

What kind of talk is that?

Language does not exist…
not in the sense of something we can touch,
attain, pass from hand to hand, feel the grain.  Even language
the shared delusion is an illusion.  We all understand chocolate cake,
but only I recall Paul, at two years old, smothered in the stuff...

Also the higher the fewer;
there's less to agree the more abstract we go: my love
is not your love; and my sovereignty
doesn’t exist at all.

And now, you have the cheek
to talk of things that I don't even know:
you say you like kayaking
but I have never experienced the semi-resonance
of millimeter-thick fibreglass rebounding
from underwater geography, or the feel
of near ice water draining from a helmet.

Language does not exist…

the dictionary says otherwise.
The words in the book of lexical lore
will claim to, with precision, pin a meaning on every
possible utterance. They do not... cannot...
dictionaries do not exist.

Language isn’t defined or declared,
it isn’t even functional at heart. It’s metaphorical.

When we get high, here on the hill,
with the stepladder,
you being very tall;
while your guitar solo goes up and up;
because you've been promoted, by a higher power;
and your salary is now so much,
but your meat’s off;
your electricity is strong;
your church is formal;
and your fashion sense is very sharp today.

All this is “high”
but the only way three octaves above middle C
resembles rotting meat,
is buried deep in our psychology.

Language does not exist…

not as something fixed
which you can grasp with thought or pen.
Continual flux is all there’s ever been:
spellings, meanings and usages
shifting beneath our tongues
like extreme sushimi.

You, I hope, understand me.
Shakespeare, however, would get me less
and Chaucer might think I was speaking
a foreign language.

I take my words back,
I take them back in time until,
somewhere maybe in the 9th or 10th centuries
we reach a point where they have no meaning...

because language does not exist.
Not even in the other direction.
My words are of course
recorded for posterity, but after I die and as they age
what people understand fades.
Until there comes a moment
when my great, great, great, great grandchildren
factoring, loneish their fluxward inspace
wonder quite what planet I was from.

If I was truly great,
people would update me
once per generation,
but we can't all be Shakespeare
—if nothing else Shakespeare's already done that.
So there!  That's us evolving once again.

Language does not exist…

Je suis un éléphant.  I might say,
I was French,
and an elephant
, and those who are the sorts
who understand French elephants
would shrug
and think I stated the obvious

but my words would be gibberish
to the less linguistically endowed.
English exists,
French exists,
and they’re languages, all right...
but they are not language itself, which does not exist.

English/French dictionaries, especially, do not exist.

Language is a maelstrom, language is a storm.
People think they pin it down, control it...
define it;
may as well bottle the hurricane.
Grammarians claim they can explain
and lay down every part of speech in grammar books.

Grammar books do not exist
and as for the people who write them:
I've never met one.

But... if language does not exist then
why, we are free!

No ploddy, tetrapody emphraslement for me!
No lexical cling.  Talk toboggan listening
all everness towards myself true wordy
and ultimatic infiltrate the thing
of done magnificence, superlative, and evermore unstopped.

Nobody can stop me from saying this
and they cannot touch me for it...

...because language does not exist.



Alternative Forms of Government
(an occasional series)

Number 3


The Air Force issues an official statement that government does not exist, however leaked documents show that they were seriously investigating the possibility in the 50s and 60s.

A video surfaces on the internet which purports to show the autopsy of a political candidate recovered from a crashed campaign bus near Roswell, New Mexico in the late 1940s.  The picture quality is poor, and grainy, and filmed in low light with a hand-held camera, but whatever the creature is, it is hard to believe it is human...

Many people report close encounters with political parties.  Some claim to have even been taken inside the party, exposed to "unearthly logic", and in some cases unlikely sex acts.  Political organisations (or "saucers") are reportedly able to accelerate far faster than any conventional vehicle and change direction suddenly to avoid embarrassingly close investigation.

On election nights, voters gather with cameras and flasks of soup on hillsides where political encounters are rumoured have occurred.  Everybody stares at a patch of sky slightly to the left, or slightly to the right, and later swears they were paralysed by an unearthly beam that confirmed their pre-existing beliefs.

All those in favour, raise your right hand to greet the humanoid silhouettes walking out of the blinding light; all those opposed, mutter something about weather balloons and ignore the sunburn acquired in the dead of night...


What is her mission here on Earth?

This was recently on the front page of Poetry Circle which is a great poetry magazine/forum site with lots of active members and a lot of energy.  A good place to check out...

What it is this about?  Well there's loneliness and isolation, wistful longing for another person...  but I think mostly this is about the awkwardness of adolescence and growing up.  Boy wants girl.  Boy doesn't understand girls.  Boy speculates wildly...

...obviously it works the same for any other combination of genders, and the gender of the protagonist is in fact wholly in the gift of the reader... is in fact a sort of 'everyperson'; a symbol for any or everyone.

One day, maybe, she'll speak to us and everything will change.

What is her mission here on Earth...

...and do I even waste what chance I have
lounging beside my locker, checking-out
the girl from Mars?  Nobody ever saw
her father's car: so maybe she gets dropped
at five a.m. by shuttle-pod somewhere far

beyond the football ground.  She has no clique,
not even in the default group for freaks
and friendless geeks--I know; I've run with them
myself.  How can you stand outside outsiders?
Unless intelligence, so alien

broods silent in one eye?   It sees but does
not do; it won't join in; her hands so thin:
she writes machine-like, awkward and a touch
frustrated, as if  paper with only two
dimensions is so quaint.  She ain't stupid

in maths, she writes the answer first, before
the working out.  And think of Martian sex!
Does she have tentacles...?  Scratch that.  Relax...
Focus on facts.  She's drifted through these halls
for three years now, with always half a smile,

an emissary from mission control;
or maybe robot telepresence rig,
that sort of thing: space-probe or bomb-disposal
mechanism driven by a soul, distant,
the far end of a string that's pulled so tight

out of an empty tin.  I'll ask again:
What is our mission here on Earth?