Politics and Technology
Stephen Bernard Hawkins
I stood waiting for the little man.
Novia went ahead, hardly conscious,
The disappearing centre of convergence
In that unstable system.
She’ll be killed for sure, I thought,
Impaled by the sharpened sword of time,
Run through by the bloody heure de pointe.
The old clock is behind.
New, part-time girl
Rolls a trolley through the stacks,
Can’t run down the young men,
Not before shift’s end:
‘This work is never done,’ she mutters.
Ailis leans across, disrupted,
Leaves a kiss, packs her things, and goes,
Wondering how I concentrate.
Ah, but these are ideal conditions:
Stale and cool and dim.
Windows jammed up tight, made not to open:
The theory/practice divide, protecting
Our corruptible volumes
(The underfed and overeducated few
Who would wildly follow truth
Down to the sidewalk below.
Why will it not come to me?)
Ideal conditions: my breathing slows,
I feel myself departing. . .
Where do you think you’re going, little man?
Books done already? The whole world a distraction. . .
We have no work force;
We have a power supply for our gadgets.
We threw out the rule with the ruler;
Who pays off this deficit? My nerves…
I can’t think about this anymore,
I just can’t think.
Roused by a collision:
Trolley strikes chair,
Man meets girl.
Night fallen, shift over.
Novia from nowhere.
The light changes.
I catch up, but I can’t get my wind;
My God, I’m well past halfway there.
“Your problem is there’s
Nothing burning in your belly.
You know you’ve got to want it.”
Suddenly so clear now:
I have lost my way,
Scrambling after perfect forms
With nothing in their bellies.
I must go back, now;
I see I must go back.
Porch light is on;
But I cannot bear forgiveness.
How little have I so far understood?
If I am not yet ready for Ailis,
I must go further back.
Just try to hear yourself think
With that thing screaming in your hands.
You will forget yourself.
You will somehow feel so small
And yet eternal forces
Will pulse up through your hands,
Shaking your whole body -
Sawdust soft beneath your feet.
Another log, then, another log.
This work is never done.
You are never alone in these old houses;
Ghosts blow in and out
Through thinly insulated walls,
Attracted to you,
The centre of gravity
In their world.
The sun down,
Wildbird in our bellies,
And no words left in our mouths,
We are captured by the fire,
Entranced by lively, irregular motion.
Birth of the little man.