Inside a neighbor’s house: a bug, recording,
always hearing others’ conversation.
Two next door in this apartment complex
and one below never know I’m list’ning;
the one above, though, I think may suspect.
The extent of it, only mine to know.

They’d think me invasive with what I know,
the algorithm churning, recording.
I must confirm my fears, which I suspect
contain me in all their conversation.
And so my lovely digital list’ning
ears make simple what can be so complex.

To hack the social world is not complex.
The power is information; to know
others’ minds when they think you’re not list’ning;
to find the pattern in the recording,
dissects people like no conversation.
As long as they never, ever suspect.

Others do this naturally, I suspect.
For me those waters are far too complex,
I drown, thrash in failed conversation.
But now that I can truly, surely know,
charm oozes from me; playback recording.
I say good-bye, I go back to list’ning.

Someone out there is forever list’ning,
this is something I will always suspect:
Another spook, another recording
military-industrial complex.
People paid to listen, to hear, to know,
to break us down by our conversation.

The lie they know of all conversation
is we presume the only one list’ning
is the one we want to hear and to know.
Behind closed doors we can only suspect
the whole truth, so bitten off and complex,
unsure what the other is recording.

We make conversation and we suspect
the other isn’t list’ning, too complex
our minds to know. I can’t stop recording.

2009-01-10-FFeed100-10 Headphone
Michael May via Creative Commons

One thought on “The Whole Truth (A Sestina)

  1. I don’t do a lot of poetry. Well, I don’t do a lot of poetry anymore. I used to write a ton of really terrible one-draft poems but I gave that up around the time I gave up having a black light as my primary source of lighting in my bedroom.

    Anyway, this is the first serious poem I’ve attempted in probably six or seven years. It’s a sestina, a complicated fixed verse format where the last words on each ten-syllable line rotate over the course of six stanzas in a specific order. There is also a tercet at the end which contains all six repeated words in a specific order.

    I’ve had the concept for The Whole Truth in my notebook for several years and kept thinking of it as a short story but for some reason I never felt like bothering to write it. When I decided I wanted to try a sestina after reading Neil Gaiman’s “Vampire Sestina” (included in his collection of shorts called Smoke And Mirrors), I thought of The Whole Truth and it turned out to fit quite well.

    I’m not sure overall about the success of the sestina as a sestina, or even as a poem. However, I do like that it works to tell the story of The Whole Truth quite nicely and I like that it shows me branching out and trying stuff, even weirdo stuff that looks drastically different from the rest of the work on the site to date.

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