Tuesday, 23 July 2019

Zone II (a 21st century poem)

*Here's a long poem I originally wrote in 2002. It is a sequel, of sorts, to French Symbolist poet, Guillaume Apollinaire's famous 1909 modernist poem, Zone, which addressed the many modern and technological changes that were happening early in the 20th century, including the Cubist and Futurist art movements of that period. My poem takes Apollinaire's themes and brings them into the digital and virtual world that we now find ourselves, not so much inhabiting, but wholly immersed in, or even subsumed by here in the 21st century. I've made a few necessary revisions, while deliberately keeping certain freshly millennial references intact, for contextual purposes, to give the poem a more contemporaneous presentation.

by J. Albert Barr

                                   ZONE II

The spent postmodern world is weary of its own time.

Corporate CEO your bloc of shareholders are exsanguinating the fiber-optic vein.

You haven't had enough of this consuming in our late capitalist mode.

Here even the street-people resort to some basic, dishonest strategy
To weasel a buck or two from less apathetic strollers
Inevitably making their way towards dying malls like 19th century arcades.

In all the Western hemisphere you are not exhausted O credit-rate!
The most lucratively informed is you Mr. I. Cloud
And you whom the Window's share is beyond shame to keep back
From entering an ethics-room and confessing your torts in the morning
You scan the skylines the headlines the company's earnings
The public notices you singing out
Here's the morning news and for pros you have inside information
We've bull-shit web-rags saturated with lame articles
Partisan pieces, biased bile and a gazillion fucking ads.

Just tonight I saw a T.V. news report of a teen beaten to death I forgot their name
So young and green a dead weed in the sun
Competitive networks and nondescript reporters
From Sunday morning to Saturday night run "the story" a dozen times a day
Several times at night a police siren wails out
A fuming funnel slays the air at noon
The buzzwords the billboards the malls (so dead)
The pay-stubs the credit-notices nagging
I loathe the snark of these commercial streets
Located everywhere between the Aurora Borealis and the Aurora Australis
There's more items per street and you're only here still. 

Your image dresses you in Nike and the Gap
You're an homogeneous boy and like your generic buddies
You want nothing less than parties in perpetuity
It's four o'clock the beer is all gone vomit on the floor you crawl
Into someone's room
You sprawl all morning long in a mess of pheromones.

With the internal pathetic depth of automatons
Absorbed incessantly by the VR graphics of PlayStation and Xbox
This is the stale air that we all now breath
The cyberspace the white hare now flees to within
The pimpled-face son of the mother shopping
The pixels curvy-slick all over with ani-babes
The triple action of blood and gore
The 5.0 starter kit
"God" who designs on Friday and plays on Sunday
"You" who manoeuvres better than any other player
And holds the current record for the most levels accomplished
Public star in your eye - from your cloud
Twenty-first century job knows its place
And morphs into a byte this century downloads into the hard-drive
Jacking-in like Dixie.

The AI's in their programs compute to evolution and whir
They call it a virtual organism of simulating in Game of Life
They explain if this is Artificial Life let's call it "genuine life of different stuff"
The ROM jet across the beaming screen
Microsoft Internet Multimedia Wintermute of Neuromancer
Hugo about this first artilect.

From day to day they step inside of cubicles to transfer to the source
Those promotions rescinding externally at the Congregation of the Ghost
The plain hands at Mass supplicate for things instead
See the shelves are crammed with merchandise of innumerable means
In stocked aisles the brand-names come the labels, the Logos has gone
Designers from Italy and styles aplenty and former mallrats
The "new-line" celebrated by consumers and economists
Glitters with the spirit of Adam (Smith) the first head in the market
The Dow Jones fluctuates from the board with a great weight
This for America comes the tall order.

From Japan the super-charged animation
I have only one wish to fly to Paris
Where are the poets so igneously-spirited
Inspired by the Symbolists and the new iconoclasts
The Phoenix that self-regenerates illuminates mistakes
Hid beneath the veil so desperately clasped by the ornery
Their minds repeat the previous fates
Arrange all to be sustained at bottom with their (de)vices
American dreams and Asian means all resign
To fantasize within the virtual machine.

We are accelerating in 3D all alone in a game-program
Soccer fans are cheering in passing cars as you go
Reality's shadow churns you in the viscera
Ask if you can be real ever again
If you're living in the old world you better exit the arena
You're beside yourself when you see yourself grieving
You swear at yourself man your loathing burns like infernally
The parts that you hate intensify a life with no relief
This picture is preserved in dusty digital albums
But you can never allow yourself the courage to admit it.

Today you're chatting in a coffee-shop the employed are on Prozac
This is and I do want to remember it this is the twilight of humanism.

Inured to her fallen towers New York has shown them at Ground Zero
The wound of a national heart had enraged them from all States
We were desensitized by the re-televised terror planes
And this image that owes much to biased purviews keeps me up at night
It remains ubiquitously around you this tragic image that has festered.

Now we are beyond the new millennium
Under the auspices of technology progressing all day long
You can escape into it with some choice friends of yours
One's from Department G one's from Division 35 there are three from DeVry
I am unnerved by the easy proliferation of techno-romantics
Who through a lobotomized memory feel safe to savor artificial worlds.

You are in a chat-room somewhere in the Net
You are bold with anonymity at your finger-tips
And instead of describing your true self
You reflect the avatar lodged deep in the recesses of desire.

In dreams you see yourself in bondage at the gates of Saint X
You awoke so bemused by the vanishing vestiges there-in
You felt like Neo struck dumb by the threshold
The numbers on the digital clock made zero sense
But you revert back into the linear world
And getting up to CNN hearing the morning news
The decaf coffee from that catchy jingle
Commuting back to the boroughs along the mainline
You're at home watching Survivor on a Japanese big-screen.

You're in Fort Lauderdale with a buddy who thinks you're cool but he's self-interested
He wants to pursue a Californian sophomore
Then register adjacent rooms and lounge by the pool playing eyes with one another
You'll remember it well the three days spent there and resent him for having scored.

You're at work before the assessing management
Like a disposable employee you sweat in uniform
Have you appeased your employers enough to avoid being down-sized
Before taking into account the receding sales and competitive take-overs looming?
At thirty-two you have suffered for business and company
You have lived beyond your means and have lost a third quarter of stock
I am not secure with these hands and all the while you could not see your own
Because of this because of that I dread because of all the things rendered oblivious to you.

Lies full of fears you instill those artless students
They trust in democracy they pay the schools to prepare a future
Their fees fill the budgets of the campus repute
They believe in the tradition like the graduates before them
They fully expect to get rich on the market floor
And ascend to the corporate perch then kick the ladder away.

One company exports its winning products as efficiently as they exploit your labor
Their guilt and your bonus are equally disavowed
A fraction of those students remain there and climb dutifully
In the division of advertising or the department of public relations
I always see the result obscuring the sky on the streets
They are like watchmen they rarely leave the terminal
Even while in transit above all use cell-phones and wear head-phones
Drained of soul they kick-back with a remote, remote from self-awareness.

In 2002
You sat before the monitor in a cyber-bar
Engaged in a five-hour session among the peripheral on-line surfers.

You were a knight in an unreal time.

These people are not distressed but they have their problems nonetheless
Some of them are lost in an illusory realm even among the eldest
See these children of a forgotten time.

Those hands I can see they are unsteady and callused
I have immense empathy for the feared thoughts in all minds.

For the impoverished person with no fertile future I ponder my own now.

We are alone Winter is coming
The lostmen are stamping their shodless feet at the traffic-lights.

Sight wakes night like a frost medieval
It's a fearless jester or a fearful cardinal
You take those pills that belie a fractured reality
Your reality you take down like an enemy
You yell upwards to the heavens and go home unheard
To sleep with your illusions from Hollywood and Las Vegas
They are creeds in a distorted form creeds of wanted norm
They are the costly creeds of longings denied.

Closing time   Closing time

Sum (of all)  cut  losses

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