Sestina in the Computer Age

A friend said I didn't need to know the UNIX
operating system to locate Czeslaw Milosz
reading his poetry on the World Wide Web,
so I turned on Netscape and began to surf
the Internet. My girlfriend thought I was a dweeb,
but I told her, Honey, this really isn't a hoax.

She thought it was a hoax
anyway as I sat in a dim room staring at a UNIX
prompt on my screen. Maybe I am a dweeb
after all for thinking Czeslaw Milosz
will appear on my terminal like surf
rocking in and out of sea shells and web.

The NET? The WEB?
All these terms must sound like an abusive hoax
to someone who respects language and surfs
the ocean instead of filling his head with UNIX,
someone like Nobel Laureate Milosz
who probably thinks this computer stuff is for dweebs.

But after hours and hours of dweebing
around on the Internet and searching the Web,
I located the audio recording of Milosz
reading his poetry. It wasn't a hoax
after all. Maybe I should take a UNIX
class this summer, where I could really learn to surf.

Then my girlfriend wanted to surf
the Internet too and become a dweeb
like me. I told her that UNIX
is like pure language, not a tangled web
of rhythm and sound like poetry. The real hoax
came when I learned that the great poet Milosz

had been surfing all along. Imagine! Milosz
the magnificent and his following of surfers
holding that pure language is a hoax,
and that some day, the rest of us will join his cult of dweebs
and follow them online to sites on the World Wide Web
where we would be highly regarded as eunuchs.

I had been a dweeb all along, thinking that Milosz
didn't know UNIX. He was a veteran surfin' dude
who knew all the hoaxes that one encounters on the Web.

Healdsburg, 1997

Scott Reid, 1997