Hannah Smith

Elegy for a Swan 

The San Francisco Zoo released a statement about Blue Boy’s death,
which left his mate Blanche alone to drift along 
in the background of every proposal by every business school grad 
kneeling outside the Palace of Fine Arts. Someone on the internet 
commented he was an ass, but we loved him. Someone had poisoned 
the soil. Someone had inserted zinc into the groundwater and lead 
into the bread we tossed in the pond to soak in a top layer 
of grime, disintegrate, digest. Some summers ago, I was fucked up 
at a dive bar in the Marina with the NFL prospect who nearly
killed himself from an overdose last week. We were all wearing black 
to a birthday party and doing coke in the bathroom. Feathery white 
stuck to someone’s nose and nobody cared and everybody 
worked for a tech startup like I just couldn’t leave the center of the world. The Bay
right outside our windows never looked like water or promise
when the fog was too thick to see past our own noses. Everyone’s all
sustainable and optimize and product design and let me tell you
about algae blooms. Some of us were earthsystems majors
and all of us thought it was cool to be a college dropout when in reality
I learned virtually nothing except how to recycle glass. I’m drifting 
in and out of coastal obsession when I might as well be from the bottom 
of the pond outside a neoclassical this or that built to showcase the city’s comeback
after an earthquake. How many more shocks will it take
until we collapse into blue. 

De-Coding in Python 

def main():
    print("Hello World!")
          Dear World,
          will you let me
          back in, now that 
          I know how 
          to greet you again? 
          Now that I am
          mainly defeated? Now that
          I have unraveled 
          the letters of my name,
          learned a new language—
          how to spell again.	
time_now = localtime ( )
          That night, some time between 
	  blackout and day
          -break, I lost my name
	  and gained
	  a pair of bruises—rupture
          of local vessels.
          An aching 
          from the tail 
          wrapped around 
          my waist. It came 
          and went as breaking waves.
The value of __name__ is : '__main__'
          I would wake
          the next day
          covered in sunlit
          shame. The way 
          the snake constricted
          I’ll never get 
          to remember—
          like the value of Pi 
          past the tenth digit, 
          or the value of warmth,
          or my name.
if __name__ == '__main__':
          It took the coast of Maine
          to teach me that it is
          soft gray fog 
          flowing slowly through
          my veins—not 
          the hard gold sun 
          I barely escaped from 
          on the other coast: 
          a place named for saints,
          where gods
          of tech never taught me
          how to code.
def process_data(data):
   print("Beginning data processing...")
          If I print 
          my new name for you, 
          World, would word 
          processing change 
          between this screen 
          and the hard-copy page?
          Today, I’ll reclaim 
          the foam on the coast,
          the ache in my veins.
          I’ll burn the snake
          on the blackout screen,
          I’ll water my name 
          with rain.

From the author: These poems investigate tensions between “technological progress,” the natural world, and the individual human experience. I spent my college years learning in the shadow of Silicon Valley, and I have grown interested in reworking both the rhetoric of the tech industry as well as the literal language of code in poetry. In particular, “De-Coding in Python” was inspired by a conversation with a close friend, who is an engineer; it grew from a formal experiment translating the language of code (of which I am no expert!) into the language of personal experience.

Hannah Smith is a writer from Dallas, Texas. She completed an MFA in poetry at the Ohio State University, where she served as the Managing Editor of The Journal. Her poems have been published or are forthcoming in Gulf Coast, Ninth Letter, Mississippi Review, Palette Poetry, and elsewhere. You can find her online at hannahsmith.net