Saturday, 8 October 2011

EINE KLEINE NACHTMUSIK PLEASE HOLD

PLEASE HOLD

This is the future, my wife says. 
We are already there, and it’s the same 
as the present. Your future, here, she says. 
And I’m talking to a robot on the phone. 
The robot is giving me countless options, 
none of which answer to my needs. 
Wonderful, says the robot 
when I give him my telephone number. 
And Great, says the robot 
when I give him my account number. 
I have a wonderful telephone number 
and a great account number, 
but I can find nothing to meet my needs 
on the telephone, and into my account 
(which is really the robot’s account) 
goes money, my money, to pay for nothing. 
I’m paying a robot for doing nothing. 
This call is free of charge, says the mind-reading robot. 
Yes but I’m paying for it, I shout, 
out of my wonderful account 
into my great telephone bill. 
Wonderful, says the robot. 
And my wife says, This is the future. 
I’m sorry, I don’t understand, says the robot. 
Please say Yes or No. 
Or you can say Repeat or Menu. 
You can say Yes, No, Repeat or Menu, 
Or you can say Agent if you’d like to talk 
to someone real, who is just as robotic. 
I scream Agent! and am cut off, 
and my wife says, This is the future. 
We are already there and it’s the same 
as the present. Your future, here, she says.
And I’m talking to a robot on the phone, 
and he is giving me no options 
in the guise of countless alternatives. 
We appreciate your patience. Please hold. 
Eine Kleine Nachtmusik. Please hold. 
Eine Kleine Nachtmusik. Please hold. 
Eine fucking Kleine Nachtmusik. 
And the robot transfers me to himself. 
Your call is important to us, he says. 
And my translator says, This means 
your call is not important to them. 
And my wife says, This is the future. 
And my translator says, Please hold 
means that, for all your accomplishments, 
the only way you can now meet your needs 
is by looting. Wonderful, says the robot 

Please hold. Please grow old. Please grow cold. 
Please do what you’re told. Grow old. Grow cold. 
This is the future. Please hold. 

© Ciaran O'Driscoll


Note: Originally published in Southword literary magazine (Cork), 'Please Hold' was selected as one of the Highly Commended poems in the Forward Book of Poetry 2009, and was published this month in Poems of the Decade: an anthology of the Forward books of poetry 2002-2011. 

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