25 Feb 2013

Computer Games -- Philip Salom

 [1950-current, Australian]

— you’ve come halfway through the matinee,
have to carry dames, or slap guys’ faces
— it’s either platinum or sharp moustaches.
Which means you’re too soon or thirty years
too late to make the moves convincingly.
Her nose is thin and Streepish, his is not
Latin American, more Latin Ahollywood,
down to virtuoso later scenes, without make-up,
when love’s gone looking for another Oscar.

You spend a day in bed, her legs always
brown and way apart for quivering bum-shots of him
but that’s not what you press there for.
You can be him, or you can be her. You can
press for Bond and Pinochet, one phone call away
people like pale wires fed by a magneto
until the wires fairly scream.
By six o’clock you will too. You press:
a shower scene gothic with groovy breasts
and lower down, there’s lots of fluids, male
and shiny nozzles — desire’s like hotel soap,
show many times you can use it.

You press — it’s raining streets at night, water
from the ultimate of roses, water is drinking light
from bleeding and bleeping neons. Her head
shifts against your shoulder as you gasp relief
hoping, in a way you hope for Glass on soundtrack,
this will keep on, the easy, melancholy fall
upon the cars, rain enough to keep the peace
in ways the law-men and the daytime can’t.

You hear yourself saying to another bloke
you’re in on this too and he: been at it for years.
Looking for one chance, that’s all.
Then his eyes: Know what I’ve just found?
Funny how you never find out what, and how
like the laziest schizophrenic ever seen
your head’s a TV set with channels
no flicking back on the remote can find again.

The older bloke, tanned, fiftyish, a little
overweight, but strong. But he dies.
And the woman who simmered in the car
beside him, staring at her fingernails
as if she longed to be elsewhere…
She’s dead too. They looked so well.
But they’re gone. This happens all your life.
Who are these people? Where do they come from?

You press ‘custard’ by mistake, get
children, two boys and a girl, who look just
like Dustin Hoffman. Everything too smiley, too earnest.
You press — sunlight in Mexico, mescal, you press
alcoholic dazes, fumbling in the cupboards
for the next. You press lawyers, divorce,
the afternoon falls on you like a salesman.

There are people roaming and why do they roam
and why does this new love who seems so real
let you down, even as she leaves now
through the rain, and you turn away hurting
plainly, in a way no one will notice,
hurting not only to find this so, but how
thoroughly the public dreams are trash, computed.

How slow or fast, the speed’s irrelevant
when all of it’s confusing. Which is often now,
unless you drift, not pressing but dumbly
being pressed, knowing at least how quite
alone you are. There is no Hollywood in Heaven,
it must at best be Limbo, tilting to Escape
or Reconciliation, two states the demagogues
forgot to postulate, and both like cars
you can’t afford — repossessed.

Playing on, you have to answer:
Why is AIDS real? Are books worth writing? Do you feel?
You merge still shots, each face joyous, serious, aghast.
War breaks out but twice as kinky, voyeuristic
like prisoners or diseases, or the mad.
Who are all these people? Where do they come from?
Are they still inside you? Ending painfully
as kidney stones, or Stallones (Rocky 1 to 5)
— you press to pass.

Source: Salom, P  1998, 'Computer Games', New and Selected Poems, Fremantle Arts Centre Press Retrieved 25 February 2013, poetrylibrary.edu.au/poets/salom-philip/computer-games-0076102 

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