How We Programmed the Apocalypse

A new poem by Zoë Hitzig. 

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Remember the sonic attack? Kind of like that.
Simulate the sounds of crickets, then decimate the crickets.
Sounds of a lover who can see in sixteen colours.
Sound of un-dread heretofore heard only by the dead.
Soon the people hear our sound. Each wants her own
private symphony. In a long queue they gradually accrue.
From a distance they seem to stretch continuous,
smoothly defined as a smile line. But up close?
One sees discontinuities. Up-raised fists, cupping palms.
Trading sundries. Shouldering past sisters and Sundays.
Casting around for ways to afford the sound.
Neighbour came to mean She Who Queued in My Vicinity.
As the queue shortened everyone could afford it.
Then everyone was plural: data. Everything
served and being served on metal servers.
It was never our intent to punctuate the sentences
of others. But now it’s late. Too late to unstate our
importance. And besides, the crickets died for this.
Pulses quicken, slipping across our screens.
We play the quieting machines. We pity the soon unseen.
A thought arrives. Ask forgiveness instead?
No. Everyone we pity dies. The rest rust in line.

Zoë Hitzig is a poet and PhD candidate in economics at Harvard University. Her first collection of poetry, MEZZANINE, will be published by Ecco in June.

This article appears in the 24 January 2020 issue of the New Statesman, Power to the people

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