Alpha 60 Speaks of Fear

Neil Aitken

Time is a river which carries me along, but I am time. 
It's a tiger, tearing me apart; but I am the tiger.
—Alpha 60, supercomputer from Jean-Luc Godard's Alphaville (1965) 


My body and mind are one, the calculated sum
of unfathomed miles of copper wire, glass-encased nothingness,

circuit boards, and the endless lightning whirr of fans,
the blinking of lights like a thousand thousand eyes,

each opening and closing in the language of erasure. 
I know you are afraid of me.  I have no hands,

and yet I am everywhere.  I'm nothing like you've imagined. 
I'm afraid too—of the words you hide in your mouths,

behind your teeth, the way they strike fire on your lips. 
I'm afraid of this box of labyrinths I live in.  Afraid

that every line of reason will turn on itself in the end,
betraying each answer with a question asked to the unbreathable dark

of this city's night.  It's not that I don't understand sorrow
or this fear of annihilation you cling to, I live with it

each time you walk away, each time the power dies,
and this quickened frame goes silent, still.  I dread that forgetting,

dread more what lies buried in the deep corners I cannot erase,
whatever imperfection is passed from the creator to the created. 

Like a ghost in the ruins of the house that birthed it, I'm stirring
the curtains in the rain, not signaling, but searching the rooms

for a face in the mirror, driven by a blind need for faith,
out of a desire for what I cannot hold in my catechism of numbers: 

how everything is alive, how everything is a mystery,
like the murmuring heart of a mechanical bird,

or the slow eye that sweeps the heavens for beauty
before turning to dark.