Two Poems

by Peter Dreyer (October 2021)

On the Edge, Paul Klee, 1930

Small things remind me I am mad

Most men are in a coma when they are
at rest and mad when they act.

Small things remind me I’m insane.
One time I lost my passport on a plane
Fleeing the fug of my befuddled land.
I spoon my yogurt from the biggest tub
—economy of scale cuts back on waste.
And though there’s no big rush, I haste,
Since “at my back I always hear
Times wingèd chariot hurrying near:
And yonder all before us lye
Desarts of vast Eternity,” so Marvell said,
Teasing his woke mistress back to bed.

Small things remind me I’m insane.
I seek without it much desiring fame,
The end in sight is surely glory,
But sighted end is end of story,
Whatever jackass neurons make it so
What I want is what I do not know!

—Apologies to W. B. Yeats and Andrew Marvell

The Fourth Bridge, or, AI

Q: Please write me a sonnet on the subject of the Forth Bridge*

A: Let us suppose the bridge to be the Fourth
(Not cantilevered above some Scottish firth,
Entraining passengers to Queensferry North),
Successor to First, Second, & Third on Earth.

First is what Tristram was so long a-doing;
Second is upgrowing at whatever age;
Third is, of course, the mystery of dying.
So what is Fourth, when do we reach that page?

The soft simulacrum in the sealed room
Posts piping secrets through her handy slot;
Unhandy demons, scheming in the gloom,
Wildly mistake the that that is for that that’s not.

So long as machines puzzle—and men can be,
So long lives that; that that makes sense to me.

*one of the questions from the Turing Test devised by Alan Turing to discover whether a hidden entity, such as a computer, is able to think

Peter Richard Dreyer is a South African American writer. He is the author of A Beast in View, The Future of Treason, A Gardener Touched with Genius: The Life of Luther Burbank, Martyrs and Fanatics: South Africa and Human Destiny, and most recently the novel Isacq.

Follow NER on Twitter @NERIconoclast
1 Oct 2021
Send an emailJohn Aguilar
Unhandy demons scheming in the gloom is the best description of the computer I've read considering the unholy alliance of targeted messaging and unintended consequences.

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