Kurt Brown

World Wide Web

It’s a little like Gulliver, pinned down by Lilliputians—

the whole planet woven back and forth with invisible bonds of electricity,

the Big Top of everything-there-is staked down in the wind.

 

But haven’t we always been connected, one way or another—

by goat track, torch-wave, smoke signal, arrow-flight?

Hasn’t the air been filled with pigeons hauling messages on their legs,

the ocean a blue-maned pony express galloping between

unreachable coasts to deliver its bottle-stoppered notes?

And what about the Pony Express, the real one, intrepid cowboys

streaking deserts, clattering mountains, fording rivers

so rapidly those ponies soon transmogrified into speeding trucks?

 

And while we’re at it, what of rivers? Weren’t they a kind of wire,

connecting Red Wing with New Orleans, Rybinsk and Astrakhan,

watery cables shunting messages across tracts of land

so vast it must have seemed “world-wide” to men with poles

in open boats bearing dispatches from the throne.

 

Driving the interstate highway system, one thinks of how it weaves

the whole country together in a kind of asphalt net—

the cracked pavement in front of my door in New York

directly linked to the sun-baked tar in front of yours in L. A.

 

On one of those highways my friend said: “we have the greatest

technologies now to communicate with each other, but almost nothing

to say!” It’s like that sign I saw on a building once: “So little to say,

and so much time.” But now we have the “World Wide Web,”

sizzling shroud of ohms bearing messages at warp speed

between continents and coasts. Words without substance,

a language, at last, of pure light spoken by machines that think

in streams of digits and pixels, that Pointillism of hyperspace

painting a picture of universal communication and understanding.

 

Yet what is that to the brain, one hundred billion neurons

firing wildly at once, more plentiful than stars, this burning bush

of a human brain from which voices emanate as from a sacred cave?

And what is that to a strand of DNA—microcosmic braid of species,

boundless helix of generations, myriad-skein of eternal life?

 

Network, system, web, mesh, maze, tapestry, reticulum and grid.

What rage for connection! What urge to unite! To be less

than single, more than one, unconcerned finally

with what is communicated, but communion itself.

This world-wide desire to be contacted and found.

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