Poet’s Notebook: My poem, “Dear Internet” and brief commentary

Dear Internet

Dear internet, thank-you for being you.
Thank-you for sending my friend’s poems
on a day when I might not have known
how to jumpstart my thoughts,
thank-you for the anonymity that allows me to experiment

And to revel in the illusion of so many friends
that fools me over and over again,
and even now I tell myself they are real,
so thank you. And thank you so much
for releasing me to sleep at night

And always being there, seamlessly, night and day.
Thank-you for being more than just a shadow,
a sprinkling of holy water on my naked forehead,
a fever in the night, a twisted dream,
thank you for giving me things to do

And look forward to,
for catering to my self-importance,
for helping me get my poems out there
to strangers and friends alike,
for helping me build my fan base

So I can keep messaging the world,
for sticking a million faces
on the boxes of my dreams,
and keeping me going with myriad little promises
of possibilities, like an eternal Spring.

Thank-you for being like a friend to me,
a friend in transparency, a holographic friend
who welcomes my confabulations and
melodramatic episodes of shock and shame
and disgust and contempt and amazement

With knowing smiles and open arms
who walks right through me and turns
and says, “like this”. . .
Thanks for being everything and nothing
and teaching me to see beyond the old limits of irony.

Thank-you for teaching me that everything is equal,
and slanted and rigged and falling apart
and coming together
and that the world is full of martyrs and heroes
and that the neighbors are racist and homophobic

And saints and artists of the highest integrity
and that the plumber is a brilliant tenor in the shower
and cats can be soulmates with monkeys
and the world is more like Oz than like 1984.
And most of all, thanks for not making it obvious

That you are colluding with the bad guys
because right now it feels like Frontier Town to me
with the stagecoach thundering along
through the badlands, and I’m looking out
and watching the scenery of the wild west go by

Through a veil of shimmering dust
and I’m thinking, How cool is this?
And dear Internet, I know that you don’t
see where this is going
nor do you care that I am changing.

But I may have to explain to my grandchildren
that you were once free
and that you had a wild streak just like me.
That you and I
were once well-matched.

Last weekend my wife and I
took a drive through the Adirondacks
to catch one more glimpse of the late autumn foliage:
the rusty gold of the oaks,
smoldering red-gold of the maples

And the green-gold of beeches and aspens.
We had just turned west off route 74
and right around the bend
there was Frontier Town,
what is left of it:

Huge derelict peaked pavilion,
morosely presiding over a frost-heaved parking lot.
And the sign, jogging my memory
of when I was there
some sixty years ago!

And my inner 5-year-old
wearing his sequined cowboy duds
and holstered six-gun with the silver bullets
was squirming to get out
but all I could do was slide the gearshift into park

Roll the windows down
and listen to the rush of the
swift river of time.
Many wonders are cyclical, like our northern Fall
but wildness lost is wildness gone forever.

Dear Internet, I know
you have no idea what I am talking about
but I could google a perfect affirmation for this melancholy
that is behind this letter to you
that I am struggling to end.

And even though you are not real
still, I must regret that I
could not friend you better. See,
I am becoming more real by the day
and unlike you, I must stay wild.

Commentary:

images-2

I wanted to personify the Internet. If corporations can be people or people-like, certainly the internet merits this sort of humanization. But it’s complicated. It’s a complicated friendship. The internet is not the type of friend that you would want to climb a cliff with or have belay for you. It’s not loyal, it’s not personal, it’s not a good listener, but it has done a lot for me over the years and I want to express gratitude for that but at the same time I really don’t trust it . . . but I respect it for its generosity of spirit, and its amorality. If you know how to utilize it, it can be very supportive of whatever you are trying to do or investigate and it can get you anywhere you want to go. But it doesn’t care if you are a saint or a murderer, a pedophile or a good guy looking for a mate. It will help you. It will help you be better at something or it will help you destroy yourself. It will eagerly help you build a bomb or learn how to fix a drain. It’s all there for you. And it has a dark side in that, because of its neutrality of function and purpose, it can be harnessed to accomplish terrible and insidious things. It doesn’t pick sides. It serves anyone who knows how it works. Whether or not you are trying to help or hurt anyone, help the elephants or promote some foul agenda, the internet these days is full of doors that are happy to open and endless possibilities of connection. So, I just wanted to thank it. These are the golden days of the internet. They may not last much longer.

Dark footnote: A friend asked why I said it may not last much longer. Here is why: The internet cannot always be all things to all people and it tends to get shallower. Even though, for example, great libraries, original sources and the whole Encyclopedia Britannica for example, are available, who uses that? The nature of the internet is that it will follow the money and be product-oriented until the human race outgrows its capitalist adolescence.

In the meantime, on another track, and this you might not agree with, computers are already smarter than any programmers, their human counterparts. If and when the net goes quantum (using quantum states of subatomic particles for storing information as opposed to encoding data into binary digits) that will be the end of the illusion that we are running things. Technology will shift into a parallel dimension and we will lose the rudder.

Also, there is the insidious science of humanizing computer technology — AI, leading to the creation of a “race” of cyborgs and the weaponization of cyborgs, or robotic computers, that are half alive ushering in a world something like the one depicted in Terminator.

Also hackers might one day shut down the whole Schmiel.

If this happens (a global shutdown) the military, once it regains control, might take over maintenance of the internet, seeing anyone and everyone as potential terrorists. It is my understanding that the internet started as a closed system within the Pentagon. Except this would be a fortified super-closed-system.

Another, more obvious reason is the internet is evolving toward a two-tier system, a fast internet with lots of perks for the very rich and a slower people’s-internet, and I’m not sure what that will look like — .probably very stripped down.

So what we have right now is like a Frontier Town Old West where there is the illusion of freedom and wildness and high-adventure. But the question is, when will the free ride come to an end.

People interested in protecting their freedoms need to be a little more warrior-like. Free speech, free access to a neutral internet are not necessarily god-given rights. We have to defend these freedoms, each of us in our own way, using our gifts.

Of course it is possible that none of this will happen, but right now it is inching in that direction.

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