Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Rhysling nominee

Reprinted with permission.

Talk to the Machines


The machines work better
if you talk to them
she had read once
Something about the carbon dioxide in your breath

... or was it cats you should talk to?

She can't quite remember
and the cobwebs have grown
so sticky
so big
so many

So she talks to the machines
and hopes they won't turn into cats

She's never liked cats

And in her dreams she
sometimes see the old radio
with whiskers tail and fur and
when she turns it on
it doesn't play Radio 3, as she wants to
but purrs contentedly

But she lets go of some of her fear
every time she enters the kitchen
and the toaster has grown slightly bigger

It toasts a bit too enthusiastically sometimes
She's learned to live with it
– it's very nice to look at

So she talks to machines
To the monitor router thermostat
steam engine
and that thing in the cellar
the one with the claws
the one she doesn't really know what it does
(and it would be rude to ask
after all these years)
even the shower mixer
though it's never replied

Sometimes she whispers
the most beautiful words she knows

Götterdämmerung vemod logos
mareld vowel vintergryning
yster Nebel rafmagnsvél

Sometimes she tells stories
She tells how the glass people closed their borders tired
of seeing careless steps reduce their city to ruins but
how the countless legions of the emperor were too fragile
to keep the invaders at bay and were swept away
in pieces sorted as clear glass

Sometimes she tells them what's wrong
in the world and what should be done about it
but though they always listen
it always ends up as words without action

But she talks to the machines

They reply as well as they can
and the electricity meter gives a satisfied snort
when she tells how the power company called again
and asked her to
pretty please be so kind to
stop delivering electricity to them

Only every now and then when
the telly shows nothing but travelouges from China
the radio plays nothing but Norddeutscher Rundfunk

the computer shows nothing but cheap flight offers
does the house begin to feel too small
and the scratchings in the cellar,
as if something wanted to be let out,
even somewhat unpleasant

Johan Jönsson

(previously published in Swedish)

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