Fresh Static All My Own is a poem I wrote about 17 years ago. In the lead up to Y2K, the Year 2000, there was a lot of apprehension about a possible computer meltdown, a bug in Windows that might lead to worldwide chaos. I don’t think many people really thought it was a serious threat, but I remember thinking the dawn of a new millenium might mean the world really was going to change. Not for the worse – I was optimistic that a new mode of life was at hand; that a wonderful revolution was imminent. A lot of people were mulling over similar things; but most were far less optimistic. Fin de siècle.
In the 1980s I remember thinking about the ‘Year 2000’. It was filled with the promise of space travel and robots. There seemed something magical about the change from the 20th to 21st century. Of course it’s just a number, as everyone points out, but as a child it felt like the far future. I would be 26, an adult. Where would I be? What would I be doing? What would life be like? Perhaps my optimism was a relic of that childhood feeling.
In fact the world did change and there was a revolution, although it was solely in my own life, and it did turn out very happily. But the idea of a revolution that would fundamentally change our human nature never left me. We had survived the technological threat of the Y2K bug, but would a day come when technology would finally obliterate, or re-write, human nature? And would we welcome it when it did?
So this is a poem from 17 years ago, when I was writing and occasionally performing around London. In June of that year I was invited to perform at the Poetry Cafe in Covent Garden. Every Saturday they had an open mic night, then some music, then the invited poets. I even got paid! The basement was pretty small, with a low roof so that I almost had to stoop, and it was a hot summer evening. I had about half an hour to read my poems out loud and this is the poem I lead off with.
Fresh Static All My Own
My skin tingles
With the after-image of your hands and kisses,
As if you had passed the static in your veins
Over to me
And I was lathered with the scent.
You lie next to the hollow of the mattress
Where I slept,
As if you were sleeping too.
Your hair flows over the pillow like
Shining, while the damaged cells
Repair themselves, to go on shining.
I carefully feel
For the cut the surgeon left on my wrist
That morning, but the gel has already healed it,
Only a bruise now –
I savour it, as the nerves in my hand
Draw from the implant, their pathways
Then refashioned as conducting filaments.
My palms bristle with the fever of strange currents:
Seated deep in my motor cortex
Singing the new machine code of movement.
We will indulge ourselves in ecstatic threesomes –
My old self, edging towards death, embracing
And your already perfect androgeny: your soft layers
Pretending to be flesh, your mechanisms for loving,
Your soothing voice
Reciting the simulation of a poem.
Until the night comes that I ask you to sever
The oxygen tube
Keeping the last of my brain alive –
My body tingling with fresh static all my own.
– Matt Ford, Apr 2nd 2000.