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Mr Cassian’s Beeping Garage (poem from “School of Night”


Originally published in Southword #37

Mr Cassian’s Beeping Garage

The phantom limb of some lost electronic sound,
it still makes it hard to sleep.
It was a beeping from the garage that I got fixed
but didn’t get fixed for years
and so sometimes every fifteen minutes there it was,
a sudden pulse of sound
a digital laceration dug under the skin to sleep there
and which I got used to
like all the other noises heard, half-heard
that come from no human mouth or body:
machine breath, phone fart,
the computer clearing itself to whirr,
thermostat blinking and stove-light,
conversations between things that still exclude me.

As a child I melted crayons on lightbulbs,
slowly smashing colors until they turned into boiling brightness,
and I stopped before anyone could smell the burning.
Now I approach one of these new lightbulbs
with the trepidation of a saint to the altar
and put my hand to what is still light but now is cold,
light no longer the danger of warmth or the gathering fire
but some cool digital slick
that doesn’t need me and needs no stoking
and is too safe for a child’s imagination.

I would take the previously annoying slide
of the old cat’s nails clacking on hardwood
over what amounts to electronic wind and rain,
or the settling sounds of an old house
that groan at least like the hands that made it –
but instead an atmosphere dripping with the lava of melted information,
Pompeii Pompeii is too meaningful a comparison.

This has been written with blue ink, not black blinking pixels.