What the future holds

Hear the voice of the bard who past, present and future sees,
intoned our own William Blake, James K. Baxter,
in his back to front overcoat,
hitchhiking towards Jerusalem,
and waiting for the future to catch up with him.
Poetry touches the soul from the beginnings of the world,
where we were once whole,
and maybe, too, reaches for Shakespearean oblivion,
where our future's in the stars.
In Māori thought, the past, the deeds of the ancestors,
is actively confronted by the living. The past is called ngā rā o mua,
the days in front. Time collapses into a continuous present,
into the long clock of now.
Our clock, though, might have been painted by Salvador Dali.
So, what does the future hold?
What does the future hold,
besides another flickering episode
of 'Burnt Planet' narrated by the computer-generated voice
of Sir David Attenborough?
The future is no longer what it was, because we wanted flying cars —
and what we got was Twitter —
or 140 characters in a novel by Ellie Catton.
In the era of Covid-nineteen, we locked down
to save the paua and the glory of the nation, for the future.
It ain't nothing, so give it a name — the future.
In quantum mechanics,
the answers surround us, but we don't know the question —
call it the future.
We here in Aotearoa, with our Communist Princess leader,
are the blacksmiths of the red future,
we hammer out the keys to happiness,
living in Te Wai Pounamu.
The world's gone indoors, but we're rewilding parks and lawns,
and knitting together wild and woolly yarns,
for the foreseeable, for the future —
where climate change is the loose change
of conversation dropped on the food chain of the homeless,
and hedgefunds light up with neoliberal domination,
and Uncle Hohum is there in the easy chair,
with all the great and the good with shiny faces,
greasy with butter and China-bound milk powder,
their casino table aces flung on a green hectare.
The future is not what it was — and may Jeff Bezos
save the Amazon, but not in his image,
and may Elon Musk turn into a skull-trinket
wreathed in the musk of cannabis sativa,
and may the screw-loose, the hyper-loopies,
those who dwell in the Last Chance Saloon,
learn their fate at last...
drought, famine, mudslide, refugee camp, bread queue —
just press that button bro, and up we all go —
the car bleats in response to a thumbed key fob.
So spritz some Bezos into your existence,
the abracadabra of alibaba is amaze-on!
Ocean to ocean, one clearing station, amaze-on!
Container by container, metal as anything, amaze-on!
The hyper-normals are in denial about the source of the Nile,
and wearing cut-off denims and a faded tan,
and each one is a very big fan of the last one.
And there goes Elon Musk's sky-train
silver as Santa's sleigh lit by the sun's last ray
in a dark sky on Christmas Day
chugging across the Milky Way
bringing strings of satellites to every quadrant,
flagrant, vagrant, space junk in every quadrant
that's up there, binding the globe to its transponders
in perfect wonder and interstellar cold,
as we look on from our kauri tree platform,
while feral things snuffle and hoot into the early morn.

In the future, the plant managers are planet managers,
a thousand hour day is normal,
but it only lasts a nanosecond in the long clock of now.
A psychic numbing may be your best defence.
You're tracked, parsed, mined, and modified to make sense,
then caressed to find what you like best.
The right to be forgotten has been removed in jest,
but exclusion is not an option.
See the eggplant emoji that ate Chicago,
for Ford is in his flivver and we got your cargo,
and for what you want, how far will you go?
It's all gone to the great aggregator at the worm farm,
but how are you going to pay for what you just took?
It's the wisdom of Uncle Google and his little red book
down in the deep of deeps where he keeps his rest.

So what does the future hold
when they're paying attention
in the attention economy?
All those eyeballs rolling loose,
now jammed in a jam-jar,
strobed by white light, white noise.
The X things only a Y would understand,
the 13 struggles all left-handers know to be true,
the 21 things the algorithm knows about you,
on this Earth, this one weeping eyeball,
where neophiliacs check their messages
looking for a weapons upgrade,
and glut upon glut has gone splut,
and the nut section of the supermarket
is the largest — anti-vaxxer nuts, conspiracy nuts, gun nuts,
science-denying nuts, religious nuts.

Nobody move. Everybody down.
Everybody reach high.
Who knows who anymore, it's always the other guy.
Get your core meaning scrambled in a blender,
then sliced and diced and sold off,
before being returned to sender.
Go ahead, encrypt the panticon to base-line anon,
where everything is coloured high-key
and seems to offer serendipity,
as you prepare to deactivate the soc med binary.
Either stolen or broken or burning,
faster, faster, faster, yada, yadda, yadda...

But really what the future holds for you and me
is just another cup of tea,
comfort slippers and a lumpy sofa,
and quietly waiting till this Covid is over.
The future repeats as you creak up the stairs,
horrendous youth, querulous dear dears,
dry leaves falling from deciduous trees,
and no let-up on your diagnosed disease.
There's no let-up, no-one stops,
all is forward momentum unto the next generation,
— and more moral panic, more fornicating in the streets,
angst in the pants and fancy-schmancy O.E.
They got booths for the aged, booths for the terminal,
and a plan for a hospital that looks unwell.
But build me up, buttercup, don't break my heart,
— shouldn't the future be a brand-new start?
Dream on buster because the future's lost its lustre.
From the salt and pepper moptop of Sergeant Pepper
to the shiny busby of the American Princess Markle,
that's bolder, better, and has more sparkle,
the puppet strings of algorithims
animate us endlessly, through every kind of insecurity.
Yesterday was so five minutes ago,
it's got up and gone to Goneville again,
so everyone get on the particle accelerator,
everyone get with the giggle generator, everyone say, see you later.
Everything's correctable if it's detectable.
Eyes brighter that the eye of Sauron,
they are talking to Baby Yoda about the future.
Loud as the buzz of all the bees in bumbledom,
there's a march for equal rights by a million possums,
and, off and on, QAnon shuffle off to Buffalo.
As my autograph is my witness,
they strip-mined my data to make it their business.
How sharp is your semi-conductor?
How green is your silicon valley?
Collective murmuration, crack of starter's pistol,
draw a red rectangle around it and call it the AI recognition state,
out on the bleeding edge where the future is being made
with a twenty per cent error rate.
Never to smart to learn, never too old to dance,
In End Times, the future is toast and I'm history,
escaping with a hiss, and maybe a sense of mystery.
Kia ora!

— David Eggleton

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