Lessons in History

Lessons in History


Alexander the Great is crossing the Bosporus

He is landing on the moon.

In the City, in front of the Senate,

Augustus is declaring the Pax Romana.


There is a universal broadcast to which everyone listens avidly.

In those days I read the newspapers and did all the puzzles.

One day the answer to the acrostic

was “Watch Out for Internet Terrorists.”


I was not one to ignore such portents,

but thought I had made an error.

Even so, I have been especially careful,

kept my fingers crossed, utilized all my security software.


Along with an advertisement for robots

the cover of Time Magazine portrayed Whistler’s Mother

at a computer. I pinned the puzzling puzzle

along with both pictures on my bulletin board.


Slowly but surely such aspects of our civilization,

while they remain comprehensible, are becoming less disturbing.

In the newspaper this morning was a discussion

concerning the ubiquity of A-I secretaries.


Now, if you do get a person on the phone, although this is rare,

they are difficult to understand because of their Indian accents.

My wife still gets angry, shouts at the machines

when they fail to understand her inquiries.


If I, on the other hand, am at a loss, which is usual,

I merely hang up, start from scratch, or stand stolidly

at the back of the line. If you wait long enough,

there are always answers. Of some sort, anyway.


There is always the fact

that we are part and parcel

of a universe

whose balance is between the crash of planets


and the effects of entropy,

the loss of ozone

and the dizziness of our everyday existence.

Try to be calm. Accept the inevitable.


Turn on a light in order not to be altogether in the dark.

Look at that picture, that lady typing,

at the smiles on the faces of those robots

It is better than apple pie, or valium.