Romany (romanyg) wrote,

Poetry Month

April is icumen in so that means it's Poetry Month! One of my favorite poems is a Silicon Valley homage to Allen Ginsberg's "Howl", aptly called "Beep" by local Bay Area poet Len Anderson. The tech revolution to a Beat rhythm.

Originally published in Compact Bone # 1, 1994.


With apology and homage to Allen Ginsberg


I saw the best minds of my generation destroyed by MS-DOS in tee-shirt and
     sneakers eating microwave popcorn,
dragging themselves through endless dungeon arcades at dawn looking for
     an angry joystick,
longhaired hackers burning for the serial port connection to the silicon
     dynamo that powers the machinery of thought,
who did core dumps on everyone, nostalgic for the future, praised compute
     power for the people, mass storage for the masses, psycho-acoustic dildonics,
     digital godhood,
who bought a build-your-own-brain kit that didn't work and finally got it to
     work, but it was so stupid it couldn't do a thing, they were thrilled and
     pissed for years,
who gave it away--chips, schematics, programs they wrote themselves or
     pirated themselves, secrets, rumors, lies, anything to wire the giant
     human circuit to build the next ultimate dream machine,
who phoned for phree, broke into networks, became system manager of the 
     universe for one lousy night, were caught and arrested or took flight,
     erased everything, got a job in a software sweat shop,
who passed through universities with microscopic bleary eyes hallucinating
     infinitely nested do-loops and subroutines on the bare breasts of first
who interfaced at 1200 baud, dated over the network, couldn't face interfacing
     face to face,
who sent e-mail graphic pornographic graphics to people thy didn't know
     and maybe were married to, entered almost had a dry
who wrote madly fornicating viral disk memory muncher system crashers,
     gave them free to friends and everyone, planted them in bulletin boards,
     production line software,
who knocked our socks off and had their socks knocked off by seraphic software,
     heavenly hardware, and responded with caressing keystrokes of
     ecstatic love,
who pajamas and houseshoes and hollow-jawed and numb sat up with
     Mountain Dew and Snickers and under fluorescent panels in the fourth bedroom,
     floating across rows and columns, contemplating macros,
who drove crosstown all day to find if I had a backup, you had a backup, he
     had a backup, who has a goddam backup,
who invested a friend's last dollar in a startup, got rich, went broke, invested
     another friend's last dollar in a startup, got rich, went broke for the last
     time I swear, again and again,
who dreamed and announced and designed and built and shipped, and redesigned
     and reshipped, and reannounced and redesigned and reshipped
     and decided to do a beta test,
who microwaved in the coffee room their coffee, tea, breakfast, lunch, dinner,
     Pepto-Bismol, digital watches, defeated the interlock, this actually
     happened, microwaved a hand that still bears a hard mass in the middle
     of the palm,
who lived in the office on Coke and pizza, never went home, wrote mangy
     code all night, dreamt high-level language in a sleeping bag on the floor,
     got up, didn't smell a thing, wrote mangy code all day,
who were hermetically insulated wirewound resistors in realtime embedded
     systems hardwired to a microcontroller swinging rail to rail going into
     depletion mode,
who put it all on silicon in a class 10 clean room diffused on a wafer of confidence
     doped with marketing dreams, epitaxial layers of despair and
     perfection, plasma etched with inspiration and fatigue,
who digitized angels in random access sub-micron gallium arsenide wet
     dreams and ended up longing for virtual memory,
who were sent to training seminars, were told I'm in the process of processing
     my process of processing your process and were seen in the process
     of puking,
who wrote specs wrote specs wrote specs and multi-megabyte graphic interface
     integrated applications whose manuals are six-teen-tillion pages
who threw themselves on their knees in hopeless cubicles, lit incense in the
     four corners, knelt before the illuminated holy one, prayed the mantric
     tantric frantic incantation: dram-a-sram-a-vram-a-eeproom-a-compile-
     and run-a-run-run-run!
who were obsolete in a year, broke down, learned C+++++++, were obsolete
     in a year, broke down period,
who burnt out, went into management, burned out the rest of them, they went
     into management, burned out the rest of us, we went into management
     burned out the rest of you, and you finally went into management and
     burned out the rest of management--
ah friends you are behind schedule and I am behind schedule and now we are
     really up total animal soup creek,
and who therefore and anyway got into the same old Ford, drove home on
     the freely gyrating freeway obsessed with flash memory of the algorithm
     of redemption, the standard deviation of eternal truth,
to imitate the syntax, form and rhythm of, and even steal from, the great
     human poem and stand before you sly and ashamed, putting down here
     what might be suitable for faxing,
with the absolute illegible machine-language source code of life full of so
     many bugs that we are guaranteed employment for a thousand years.


What sphincter of silicon and injection-molded polycarbonate opened up all
     our cranial data files and downloaded all our supposed brains and imagination?
Moloch!  Solitude!  Suburbia!  Growing up no-one no-where!  Turning into a
     god at a keyboard inside a cubicle!
Moloch!  Microsoft!  Intel!  Apple!  IBM!  Frenetic startups become multi-billion
     dollar stultifiers!  Multi-billion stultifiers get better at it!
Moloch!  Moloch!  Mergers and Acquisitions!  Stock offerings!
Off-shorings!  Downsizings!  Promotions!  Demotions!  Commotions!  Daily
     Reorganizations!  Whispers in the halls!
Moloch!  Team players galore!  Bean counters in every cabinet!  Lawyers and
     lawsuits up the wazoo!  Level upon level of Vice-presidents!
Moloch!  Daily project reviews!  Micro-managers!  Hall monitors!  Eavesdropped,
     intercepted, expurgated e-mail!
Moloch!  CEOs who are forced to raise their own salaries and bonuses by
     large and arbitrary amounts just to keep them competitive with those of
     other CEOs who are forced to raise their salaries and bonuses by large
     and arbitrary amounts just to keep them competitive!
Moloch!  Mortgages!  Rents!  Split-level fantasies!  RVs and unobtainable
     second homes!  Kids screaming for another Nintendo!
Moloch of middle-aged men with bad backs from sitting too much commuting
     in four-wheel-drive sports-utility vehicles!
Moloch of idyllic dreams of foreign, boxy sedans painted a dark depressive
     grey!  Moloch of sports cars that can do zero to sixty in six seconds
     doing stop-and-go on the freeway!
Moloch of waiting in line for child care!  Moloch who gives you carpal-tunnel
     syndrome!  Moloch who makes you dream of early retirement!
Moloch who has you put off vacation until this project is finished!
Moloch whose love is endless work!  Moloch who is a problem to be solved!
     Moloch whose name is my own!
Moloch!  who entered my soul early!  Moloch in whom I am connected to a
     machine, and have no consciousness or body!  I really like it this way!
     Moloch whom I log off of!  Wake up in Moloch!  My pager beeping!
We broke our backs lifiting Moloch to heaven!  We hope to cash in our stock
     options before it comes down!
Visions!  Miracles!  Ecstasies!  All Obsolete before the hardware is released!
Breakthroughs!  Spec sheets!  Hysterias!  Ad copy!  Religions!  The whole
     boatload of marketing bullshit!
Whole generations of technology gone by on the roller coaster!  we saw it
     all!  We built computers for everyone!  We beat the system!  We became


Bill Gates!  I'm with you in Redmond where you're the richest main in the
     country, married and building a new home that includes a nursery and
     may just be waking up a bit.
Steve Jobs!  I'm with you in Silicon Valley where you still dream the next
     dream and have a wife, a home, kids, a dog and like it.
Steve Wozniak!  I'm with you in Los Gatos where you've retired and built a
     cave playhouse for your children and you must feel very strange!
Fellow programmers, engineers, chip designers, scientists, technicians, PC-users,
     techies, would-be-nerds:
I'm with you in Silicon Valley
     where we are empowered and trying to figure out what that means
I'm with you in Silicon Valley
     where we throw Koosh-balls at 10 pm then say screw it,
     go to a movie or to pizza and beer
I'm with you in Silicon Valley
     where we go Bungee-jumping from hot air balloons to feel we are alive
     and end up feeling a little sick afterward
I'm with you in Silicon Valley
     where we go to Raves, drink smart drinks and dance to droning Techno
     all night and also don't feel so good afterward
I'm with you in Silicon Valley
     where we jog or walk or bicycle or hit the courts for tennis, volleyball,
     basketball and find out we have bodies that ache sometimes
I'm with you in Silicon Valley
     where we keep computer records of how much we work out,
     but not how much we work on our computers
I'm with you in Silicon Valley
     where we kiss our computers goodnight, but they keep asking for more,
     won't let us sleep
I'm with you in Silicon Valley
     in my dreams we wake up rebooted out of our locked-up CPUs
     by our own souls'
     operating systems telling us it is time.
     We walk outside, take a deep breath
     under the trees dripping with sunlight,
     cross the lawn that brushes our bare feet,
     answer the mockingbird with its own call,
     and arrive home with time
     to sit and relax
     and chat
     before dinner.

Text for Allen Ginsberg's "Howl" here.
  • Post a new comment


    default userpic
    When you submit the form an invisible reCAPTCHA check will be performed.
    You must follow the Privacy Policy and Google Terms of use.