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__': 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