Guest poem sent in by Ivan Krstic
(Poem #1377) The Quiet World
In an effort to get people to look into each other's eyes more, the government has decided to allot each person exactly one hundred and sixty-seven words, per day. When the phone rings, I put it to my ear without saying hello. In the restaurant I point at chicken noodle soup. I am adjusting well to the new way. Late at night, I call my long distance lover and proudly say I only used fifty-nine today. I saved the rest for you. When she doesn't respond, I know she's used up all her words so I slowly whisper I love you, thirty-two and a third times. After that, we just sit on the line and listen to each other breathe.
In a time where the Digital Millenium Copyright Act (DMCA) stifles academic research, the European Union is evaluating a combined medical-record-on-a-card system that would contain a microchip ultimately able to store any piece of personal information, and bars in Vancouver are networking to be able to keep track of patrons , two things are certain. One, Orwell is turning in his grave, and two - Richard Stallman's infamous story 'The Right to Read' is getting scarier by the day . Though mixing politics and poetry is somewhat like mixing two extremely volatile chemicals, McDaniel, a contemporary poet with a rather interesting style, seems to do it effortlessly - and powerfully. Powerfully enough that questioning even the right to read wasn't appropriate to carry McDaniel's message. Instead, McDaniel went directly to the source of one of the greatest distinctions between humans and virtually any other species on the planet: the existence of an elaborate language that allows for arbitrary, not just survival-mandated, expression. McDaniel goes beyond just revoking the First Amendment - in his world, the government restricts how much people can say, a measure perhaps even more dreadful than dictating what can and cannot be said. The first two stanzas of the poem flow nicely, including the (obvious) autosuggestion of good adaptation to the new way; the next two stanzas carry the real impact of this poem. The image of two lovers on the phone, unable to speak, makes me cringe. So does the exactness of McDaniel's detail. Even though he's describing an overarching social condition, he still sneaks in very precise images - the chicken noodle soup, and the 32 1/3 times he says 'I love you' to his silent lover (167 words - 59 = 108 and -11 for the last two lines of the 3rd stanza = 97. Now 97 / 3 for 'I love you' gives the 32 1/3). Ultimately, the last two lines of the poem are a worthy conclusion - an idea of closure, of acceptance. The lovers know their situation is inescapable and beyond any capacity for repair - so they sit on the line, and let their breathing express the love which words may not. -Ivan On McDaniel: Brief bio, with sound clips of two of his poems: http://www.salon.com/audio/2000/10/05/mcdaniel/ Interview (by Jaime Wright): http://www.jaimewright.ws/int_mcdaniel2.html References  http://www.citi.umich.edu/u/provos/ or http://www.monkey.org/~dugsong/ - both are brilliant computer security researchers  [broken link] http://www.canada.com/vancouver/story.asp?id=936FC638-D1F5-4BA0-8E4B-1F4FEADEA16D  http://www.gnu.org/philosophy/right-to-read.html