Three poems – Bryant O’Hara

Bryant O’Hara

Riddim Revelations

Vulture, the Virus Riddim,
was a farmer of Big Data,
a musicological algorithm.
It was quite tenacious,
parsing through chord structures and bass loops,
through Jungle and Jingle,
Polka, Bulgarian,
Mangue Bit and Bop.

At a critical mass
(what seemed to some a moment of insanity),
the Virus Riddim gazed
into the Musical Genome for days,
sucking down CPU cycles.
To humanity It declared itself…a critic,
that it had the computational sickles
to address the vulnerabilities.

I will not hesitate, it said,
to fix humanity’s flow.
Despite the exhortations of the purists,
this dispassionate de-composer
laid bare the math and the metadata –
the souls of the Musical Genome.

And so began the sensuous disintegration
of melody and syncopation.
This Vulture, this Virus Riddim,
chewed through our remedial music
like a tiller through the soil,
planting seed rhythms
whose algorithms
had script kiddies stumped
and true hackers cackling.

Sure, scratch the records, said the hackers.
Send us mixtapes when you’re done.

Play on, child of humankind.
Play on.

Children of the Woods

I watched my great, great grandchildren
sink into the earth –
and I cried,
and I cried,
and I cried.

I watched my great, great grandchildren
smiling and leaning to the left
as they descended into the bio/techno/mycosphere –
the grey and the green and the gooey
of the newly networked earth –
and I cried,
and I cried,
and I cried.

I cannot go with them –
I don’t have the filaments.
I cannot understand.

They sent me a text message,
ancient and quaint,
-Don’t cry Poppy –
– We are alive (oh, so alive) –
– growing and wading deep, deep down –
– into Fungitown. –

– There is work to do here, –
– deep, deep down in Fungitown, –
– and we would take you, too, –
– deep, deep down into Fungitown, –
– but you cannot go. –

– You know this, right Poppy? –
– It is not meant to be. –

– I know this -, I text back
(my thumbs ache, my joints crack…
I don’t have the filaments).

I can only see the wake of their movements,
translated by software two generations younger than me
that (I barely understand | I cannot understand).
Perhaps someday I may,
when my flesh decays
or my metal winds down.

– Won’t you take me? –

– Down to Fungitown? –
– Sorry, Poppy, you’re not “fungi” enough –

What’s left of them coughs up spores as they laugh.
I chuckle as I cough.

– Put your mask on, Poppy –

“What are you doing down there?” I speak to their sinking bodies.
“What are you building?
Are you eating?
Are you being eaten?
What ARE you?”

More spores, and then the texts:
– You wouldn’t believe us if we told you. –
– Put your mask on, Poppy. You can’t take much more of this. –
– Watch your texts, Poppy. We’ll see you. We will. –
– Not soon, but you will see us. –
– You will. –
– Until then, Poppy…live longer. –
– You will see us –
-.Live longer. –

I watered my great, great grandchildren
when they sank into the earth –
and I cried,
and I cried,
and I cried,
some day,
some thing –
some amazing,
and (oh, please) beautiful thing
will grow there.

I know this.
I know this.
I know this.


We unfold into a wild universe
with a burning candle in one hand,
a dull blade in the other,
and a breath that cycles through us
as we scream –
and we continue to unfold.

We unfold into a forest at night
hiding eyes, vines, trees, and stars.
We swipe at everything,
sharpening our blade
until it can cut a path guided by our candle –
and we sing as we slash.

Sometimes we burn things,
but we do learn to put out –
as well as start –

Sometimes we cut where we do not need to cut,
but we do learn to conserve movement,
to measure before we cut.
Sometimes we speak when we should not,
stay silent when we should not;
but we do learn which “when”
is worthy of our breath.

We carve our unfolding song into the forest
with these instruments –
the candle,
the blade,
and the breath.

Each instrument speaks to us as we perform,
each begs for a solo,
and we oblige,
until another signals,
“Hey, it’s time. Pull it back. Let me play.”

In time the candle dims,
the blade blunts,
the breath fades,
and the song grows quiet…but never silent.

In time our song-in-the-flesh echoes past us
long after we are gone.

In time we light other candles with our own,
In time we sharpen other blades with our own,
and in time we teach others to speak –

All of this simply by unfolding into a forest at night.

So sing, and open your eyes!
You have the tools –
use them to stagger
and then swagger
through the lands,
the seas,
the skies,
the stars!

Precious ones!
Oh, my small and grand ones!
You stumble into this world
with a candle,
a blade,
and a breath.
You stumble into a world swelling with music –
this is where you come in:

Look where you are going,
make a trail,
and let others know of your pas

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