Day 17 — Gran’s lifetime: under a century

Today would have been my Gran’s 97th birthday. I’ve used that as the impetus for this pome.

WARNING: it is quite long; probably the longest I’ve ever posted for NaPoWriMo (though my anti-Jazz rant was up there). If you choose to skip to the last stanza, I’ll quite understand, & you’ll still get the general gist hahaha.

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Gran’s lifetime: under a century

1. Introduction
It infuriates me when people say
oh we can’t change things too much
think of our economy : et ceterablah!

2. Birth Year
In 1924 : the year after : the invention
of TV : the British Empire : is still 
gleefully : exploiting her colonies :
Australia has been an actual country 
for only 23 years : the USA only has
48 states : Adolf Hitler is still in prison :
the Winter Olympics begin : commercial 
radio is first broadcast : the first aerial 
circumnavigation of the world 
is completed : in only 175 days (today 
it takes a little over 2 days : 50 hours)
surrealism is born : movies are still 
silent : & Hubble blows up the universe
discovering : Andromeda is not
a nebula : as long thought : but another 
galaxy : & that the Milky Way : itself 
is only one : of many

3. The Not Quite 100 Years Following
in the succeeding : century
the twenties roar : jazz begins torturing 
eardrums everywhere : before causing
a great depression : nazis somehow
convince an enlightened society 
to eat itself : the USSR rises & falls
we fight a second World War : 
a Cold War : & a War on Terror 
we invent : drop : then are terrified 
by atomic bombs : stop drop & roll :
you’ll still die : but you’ll feel like 
you tried : bikinis make babes 
into bombshells : boomers are born : with a bang
& immediately begin : annoying everyone :
teenagers are invented : along with rock 
n roll : the Holocaust continues 
to horrify us : but later genocides 
get less attention : as ours grow ever shorter

Gandhi marches for salt : Mao takes 
a long one : we promise two new states 
but only officially make one : leading 
to years of unrest : dozens of countries 
shake off : shackles : declare independence

we orbit the earth : & bounce on the moon
pocket calculators : are briefly a big thing
scientists genetically engineer organisms 
(bacteria then mice) : a child is born 
via : in vitro fertilisation ; the culture counters 
revolts against war : conservatism : 
oppression : patriarchy : sexuality

Pong is considered cutting edge :
Commodore 64 wows the world 
with a massive 64K of memory :
the first Macintosh then smashes 
that paltry amount by : doubling it :
Gameboys : Rubik makes a cube

gramophones : give way : to record 
players : to cassette tapes : to compact 
discs : to mp3 : to online streaming 
from the cloud

computers shrink : from buildingesque
then : room-sized : to being : our personal 
playthings : then laptops : mobile phones : 
smart phones : tablets : iWatches
chips are implanted : in our bodies
hidden : in COVID vaccinations*

mobiles shrink : from the size 
of bricks : to fitting into pockets 
& are on their way : back up to brick

multinational corporations :
became the most important entities : on earth
free trade agreements : bloom
like mushrooms : from the dung 
of laissez faire economic policy :
stock markets crash numerous times 
& are salvaged : poor people are demonised
banks go bankrupt : & are bailed out : 
poor people are blamed : for being poor
supertanker container ships : begin 
impersonating small cities 
& pumping out : the equivalent in emissions
the assembly line : makes production 
massive : & turns men into machines
archaea are classified as a new : 
separate : domain of life

we survive Y2K … easily

we transplant hearts : break 
the sound barrier : genetically modify 
crops : map the human genome :
use X-rays see inside ourselves : 

we invent: satellites : Concorde : Skylab 
(even though it falls on us) : the ISS :
high-speed rail : container ships :
& buildings really start scraping the sky

as well as: Velcro : Tupperware : Frisbees : 
The Slinky : modern Solar cells : the pill : 
AstroTurf : ultrasound : the CDC 6600 
supercomputer : ATMs : MRIs : 
email : earlier than you think (’71)
face lifts : stainless steel : silicone : 
polystyrene : PVC : polyethylene
& nylon : & multiple other plastics : plus
thousands of chemicals : for industrial 
& domestic use (though whether these last
are good : or not : is debatable)

develop : radar : transistors : ballistic 
missiles : jet aircraft : commercial television : 
commercials (sadly) : microwave ovens : 
hydraulic fracturing : lasers : fibre optics : 
radiocarbon dating

discover : black holes : quasars : parallel 
universes : mechanics who can repair 
your quantum while you wait : that everything 
began in a Big Bang : (probably) : DNA’s
double-helix; the Cosmic microwave
background radiation : penicillin

scientists develop vaccines for : polio : 
measles : influenza : diphtheria : 
pertussis (whooping cough) : tetanus : 
measles : mumps : rubella (German
measles) : chickenpox : hepatitis A & B 
& eradicate smallpox in 1979 

we survive : eruptions : quaking earth : 
strong winds of a multitude of kinds : 
droughts : plane crashes : bridge collapses : 
train derailments : nuclear reactor 
meltdowns : space shuttle explosions : 
a litany of oil & energy crises : the rise 
& fall of Berlin’s Wall : toxic gas leaks : 
oil tankers spilling their guts 

we fight a lot of wars : a barrage 
of wars : police actions : emergencies : 
civil unrests : invasions : genocides : 
& miscellaneous conflicts of all ilks.
protests : separatist movements : 
revolutions : dictatorships : martial 
laws imposed & revoked : coups d’état : 
military coups : run of the mill coups 
& attempted coups : takeovers : insurrections : 
assassinations : uprisings both popular 
& not : riots : troubles : tensions : 
& detentes : aerial bombardments : 
battles : bombs : suicide bombers : 
terrorist attacks : incidents : 
massacres : boycotts : blockades : 
systems actively designed to 
discriminate (some were even 
abolished : well one)

even the occasional peace treaty

*one of these things is not like the others

4. Commonplace Things We Take for Granted
washing machines : clothes dryers : 
air-conditioners : exercise machines : 
refrigerators : freezers : electric 
stoves : vacuum cleaners : cars ;
& a handful of magic devices allow us 
to experience knowledge : gossip :
stupidity : & even extraordinary content
from around the world — so much great 
literature : artwork : music : dance : & cinema 
it’s impossible to list even a fraction of it

5. Technologies Which Have Become Obsolete Since Gran Was Born
8mm : Super 8 : Hi-8 : analog slides (along with slide projectors & hand-held slide viewers) : overhead projectors : analog film : including photo developing : film splicing : disposable film cameras : Kodak itself for that matter : photo albums : flash cubes : photo booths : one hour photo saloons : & (almost) printed photographs : 8 tracks : cassettes : DAT : walkmen : diskmen : vinyl records (except for DJs) : MP3 players : minidiscs : boomboxes : VCRs (VHS & Beta) : floppy disks : Zip drives : CDs : DVDs : Blu-rays : LaserDiscs (oh that’s right : they were a thing : briefly) : telegrams : dial up modems : phone books : rotary phones : landlines (almost) : answering machines : phone booths : cathode ray tvs : pagers/beepers : dot matrix printers : fax machines : typewriters : encyclopaedias : card catalogs : punch cards : classified ads : street directories : road maps : alarm clocks : calculator watches : pin ball machines : space invaders : pac man : 

6. Jobs Which Have Become Obsolete Since Gran Was Born
Breaker Boy : Cigarette Girl : Clock Winder : Copy Boy : Dictaphone Operator : Elevator Operator : Film Projectionist : Ice Cutter : Knocker-Upper : Lamplighter : Lector : Leech Collector : Log Driver : Manual Part Loading : Milkman : Mimeograph Operator : Pinsetter : Rag & Bone Man : Rat Catcher : Sandman : Sawyer : Street Sweeper : Switchboard Operator : Telegraph Operator : Typesetter : Typing Pool : VCR Repairman : Video Store Clerk : indeed entire industries devoted to record stores & videocassette/DVD rentals : not to mention entire industries related to horse-drawn transportation : not mention no doubt many others: i’ve failed to mention

7. The Argument
& if you haven’t read every single word
of this poem i quite understand
i was deliberately belabouring 
relabouring & overlabouring a point
by listing the many many many many things
we’ve changed in under a 100 years
& many in much less than that

so don’t fucking tell me we can’t change
now — & fast

Day 30 — history doing what history does best

Wide NY

Once again, as if to round out the month, the poem I had been planning to finish the event with is not the one I’m publishing tonight. Again, an article I read about 100 year old New York serviceman who died due to complications with COVID19. This led to me playing with voice & POV & trying to put the scant biographical facts I had about him into a poetic first person monologue. Which lead me to research more about him. Thankfully the first article I read was the least evocative & I found some beautiful stories/snippets in other obituaries. 

As much as I liked the other idea, it seems right & fitting to end with this moving personal story that spans the centuries.

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Philip Kahn: a semi-imagined poetic obituary

everyone should understand by now history always
replays versions of itself for its own amusement.

he was born at the end of the war to end all wars
— then fought in the next one that came along.

on the ground, at Iwo Jima, survived snipers — & a booby
trap which blew him 15 feet from where he stood.

from the air, over Japan, flew B29s & dropped
bombs — then carried their weight the rest of his life.

he helped the Twin Towers go up
— then like everyone else, watched them come down.

married in 46 & remained happily wed
— until Rose’s death last summer. 

yet always — he carried a void with him.
i was that void. Samuel. twin. died 1919.

taken by two pandemics — a century apart.
a life lived — & one that only watched.

the irony of our deaths — is my brother
& i are bookends on a shelf that never ends.