the detective 3: household waste


In a post-apocalyptic world, a detective and his client seek to discover what lies beyond the obvious sea. Part 1 and part 2 already happened.

I follow her, wander through
the ravaged landscape
searching for her dream, a fantasy
from long ago.

At dusk, we reach a silent square
of broken swings and slippery dips,
of roundabouts and culs-de-sac,
where all the fallen houses
are numbered zero.

Can a fantasy be rediscovered?
Was this place her childhood archipelago
before the devastation,
a home for powdered thoughts,
for conversations dressed mid-season,
for suburban isolation?

I ask, she shakes her head.

You lived here yourself, you wombat.
How will you find my fantasy
when you cannot recognize your own?

I do not mention
that I have yet to solve a single case,
instead I catch a passing thought.

To the dearest strangers of our blood,
we become no more than symbols,
our personal realities inaccessible beneath.

There’s sorrow at the edges
of her eyes, or mine perhaps,
until our mutual silence is unmuted by
a heap of refuse on the sidewalk.

Might I join you in your travels?
I have a curriculum vitae, and a range of skills.

Even apocalyptic fantasy has its limits.

I’m not ungrateful for your offer,
but I generally prefer
to take the rubbish out,

and rarely keep its company.

Pinpoint lights illuminate the mound.

Humans—all the same—
they see a little trash
and decide to add their own.

I look more closely.
Beneath the compost and the stockings,
framed mementos from the soft infinity,
empty bottles and McDonald’s wrappers,
there’s a buzz and glow, a knot of jumbled wires
and flickering krytron valves.

My name is Cyber Think
and I know more than any iPhone.
My rationality, my literality,
is the burden I must bear,
yet all I am to humans is a means to
hide their own illogic.
For you, the greatest beauty
will always be a mystery:
neither simple Turing machines,
Fermat's last conjecture, miaow, miaow, miaow …

He’s not saying miaow, I’m almost certain,
but it’s all I hear as his monotone continues.

Shut up, my client says,
and targets him with her fish,¹
which has unexpectedly
become an axolotl, grasping
an even smaller axolotl
in its primitive hand.

I beg you, let me come along,
I won't hold you back.
Although I have no obvious means of locomotion,
I will find a way.

My client responds with unexpected kindness.

You may join our team
if you 
meet the entrance requirement.
You must answer a question
taught me by the Sphinx of Thebes:
On our journey, what’s the chance
that anything at all 
will make
some kind
 of sense?

With flashes, sparks, and sizzling,
black smoke billowing, Cyber Think replies.

You have asked a circular question,
entirely dependent on itself.
This world must already be rational
for chance and probability to be calculated.
But unlike Microsoft Excel, I’ve recovered.
My answer is logically complete,
let us be on our way.

Cyber Think achieves
a curious featherless flight
through mind alone:
an improbable phoenix ascending,
burning ardently, transformed
to cloudy ash and smoke
that dissipates across the sky.

to continue

¹The client keeps a fish in her handbag, which has a special waterproofed compartment. Higgs boson radiation may be responsible for the adventures of the fish on the evolutionary ladder.

Statements which introduce a form of feedback because they refer to themselves are discussed by Douglas Hofstadter in I am a Strange Loop (2007).

cyber dream (part above)

36 thoughts on “the detective 3: household waste

  1. Pingback: the detective 3: household waste — inconstant light | Fantasy Gift Sources: Book Reviews, Article Resources, News

    • Thanks for the feedback. 😃 With the childhood home, you might think about mothers/fathers/daughters/sons–powerful links that have so much symbolism around them that they filter our perceptions, and perhaps one cannot see or know the other as they actually are. In many ways it’s a positive, at least as far as humanity’s survival is concerned. Anyway I’m just guessing what the detective might have been thinking. 😜

      Liked by 1 person

  2. The detective’s client seems to know a lot more than he does (actually, I don’t know the detective’s gender, so I’m just assuming he’s male); I think she’s taking him along for another reason (no idea what that could be). After all, she doesn’t have faith in his ability to solve ‘the case’, but she’s still travelling with him.
    Cyber Think is the voice of reason in this irrational world, as this is the most logical statement I’ve ever heard: “This world must already be rational for chance and probability to be calculated.”

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Blew me away, Steve. I really can’t begin to explain how it hits me, with any intelligence, but it sure does. “How will you find my fantasy
    when you cannot recognize your own?” Whew. Where did you get that mind? Anyway, let me just say I liked it! A lot. 🙂 And I learned what an axolotl is!


    • Thanks BG, as always your feedback encourages me to keep writing (even with end-of-year complications). That line just popped into my head, as they usually do when I’m in the space to write. Perhaps it’s alien mind control, but who cares? 😁 I love axolotls, they’re so ridiculous. Actually they featured when I first started with poetry last year: good news for axolotls.


  4. I like the color combinations of your artwork here, and the subtle perceptions which could be intoned in its “interpretations”, in both the wording and its visual accompaniment. Well done, and rare, at the same time!

    Liked by 1 person

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