Machine Time

 
Well, we’d say, it’s just machine time,
talking of some task we’d set them,
the computers, some long labour
of traversal, of recursion.
It would have taken us an age.
Think of a number. Double it.
How old is everything there is?
We’ll be back in twenty minutes.

We’d say: listen to all the stars,
to every second of the sky.
Stare down every needle of light
until you find someone like us.
Call us if you need anything.
Then the gulag of the genome
or a forced march of prime numbers.
Don’t worry, we’ll be just next door.

They weren’t even real,
the brutes we enslaved, but virtual;
split personalities, ghosts
inhabiting the minds of other,
higher automata, gods whose
swarming minds, whose epochs
of memory could swallow
unnoticed all written human words.

Lesser beings (or greater)
than we might perhaps have been chastened.
Not us. We put them to work:
read, write, search, replace, insert, delete.
They toiled in rivers of bytes
polluted with errors (ours mostly).
Thus occupied, we left them
unattended; machine time, you see.

You may well ask what we did
with all this time, with these lacunae
of rightful, princely leisure.
To what sphere of grace did we return
after plunging our forearms
into their still skies, sparking aeons
of rote, mute generation,
or forevers of stuttered crashes?

I’m trying to think; there was
always so much to be said and done.
In corridors, we skirted
polite doubles with slapstick dodges.
We were in our own ages
of making, though we clambered over
strata of our unmade things,
desperately repeating ourselves.

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