COMPUTER FREAKING

for the late Walker Percy

So I’m having another computer meltdown
and finally give up because I’m a moron
and drive over to the Geek Squad for the third
time, and today, after waiting in line an hour
I connect with this black dude
about middle aged and sort of heavy and surly
but he knows what he’s doing, what relief!
and as he starts to load backup files
onto my machine we get to talking
and he teaches me a lot of arcana
about viruses and worms
and all the evil diseases in cyberspace
and I notice that he’s a character
straight out of Walker Percy, a brilliant technician
(but self-taught, not MIT) who still uses the word
“ax” for “ask,” and it’s endearing to me
because I’ve always liked “ax,” use it myself,
and then he says, “Ax me, you can find
anything you want on the internet
so you don’t have to be a moron no more,”
but I frown, “Well, you gotta understand
the patois . . . it’s the words,
the geeko words that fail me and really
I AM a moron,
attention deficit order you know, which
I didn’t know I had until they identified it,
but now I’ve got it and what can you do?”
He shakes his head, “Ax me, they invent
all that shit . . . look at me, I got bipolar,
meaning I’m sad some days and way out
on others, and I figure dat’s the way
most of us is, I mean, are . . . catch my drift?”
I love the man and eye up the other skinny,
pale-faced geeks with disdain: babies,
scrawny, ill-nourished, maybe genius babies,
but they don’t know half what my man knows
and he taught himself, and so after a few hours
of loading files, half of which are lost,
I carry the machine out to my car
and have a vision of the pure blue screen
of Word Perfect 5, and then another
of my old Brother electronic typewriter,
and still a remoter vision of the cast iron
Underwood monstrosity from my mother,
the carbon paper, fuzz clogging “e” and “b,”
the sticking keys and correct-o ribbon,
and, man, I think, such lousy visions,
nothing like Lame Dear or Black Elk,
pathetic, techno visions, and I remember a picture
of Nietzsche typing on this horrible thing
that looked like a medieval torture device,
some sort of rotary job, and figure
surely it had something to do with his migraines,
and way before, Dickens scratching it out
by candle-light or back to the days
of goose feathers and poke berry ink
and backwards forever, chunks of coal
and ochre on the Altamira cave walls . . .
and my anxiety mounts while driving home,
the preposterous equipment on the back seat,
hard drive, operating system, Java, memory cards
. . . what the hell are they, how do they work,
who spawned them into existence,
why did I not have a vote for simplicity
and user-friendly admittance?
Am I seeing the light or has it become darker,
the car sodden with malaise (Walker, do you hear?).
Someone puts a gun to my head:
RAM, OS, JAVA, Cisco routers, external memory
or lumps of coal and red ochre – you must choose.
Give me the fucking chunks and that cave, man,
I’m a moron and I like moronity and it has never
set me adrift in the circuitry of panic.
And at a red light I close my eyes and pray:

“Hail Mary, operating system of us all, blessed
are the entrails of thy PC, and the fruit of thy womb,
Geek Squadron.”
And so, Walker, it’s back to you, for you always
drew the bead: you said, “The greater
the technology, the greater the horror.”
Yes, I vote, yes. And you fretted over the
rise of technicians, specialists, especially medical,
into whose dry, chalky palms we deliver ourselves
and bequeath our sovereign selves to become
“organisms in an environment.”
You picked up that bayou wisdom by osmosis,
you, diagnostician, caught the baleful,
inexorable drift. And another vision comes
as I accelerate onto the interstate: all of us
crucified, tacked like mangled golems
on a vast, charred, smoking Moloch
of motheboards.




About the Author:
Louis Gallo was born and raised in New Orleans and now teaches at Radford University in Virginia, where he lives with his wives and daughters. His collections of poems include THE TRUTH CHANGES, THE ABOMINATION OF FASCINATION, THE PRIVATE CONFESSIONS OF DIABLO AMORICUS WISHBONE, WITNESS and SHADOWS. His novels include THE SECRET SURVIVOR: A NEW ORLEANS FARCE and BREAKNECK: A KATRINA FUGUE. Three collections of short stories are also available--DEAD BY TUESDAY, WEDNESDAY MORNING and THE YEAST OF REVELATION.