Transition Poem 51 @ Dec. 29, 2016

Elizabeth Macklin
Shanghai Mahjongg or Something

The living face and voice and pulse only
at last hold humanity together.
—W. Whitman

Let’s play some Mahjongg,
let’s play some Shanghai Mahjongg.
Let’s play some online Shanghai Mahjongg
in our online-solitaire kaffeeklatsch,
where Action brings good fortune,
or can—even in Red Dragon–Hard,
one rung down from Ninja–Unbeatable.

But line ’em up. A prayer for the post-election,
says somebody posting a “Long Walk Home”
in the News Feed, as if to remark Who we are,
what we’ll do, and what we won’t.
And so we retreat—not into anything easy
but just into Red Dragon–Hard,
a craven occasion to try breathing.

As out in the real world they desperately try
to construe us. But we live in this one,
and wanted only to slow down.
A gross, 144, of pleasing tesserae: contemplation,
a way of seeing a chance—something
to do. Then doubling back to consider:
Any reason not to?

And: Action brings good fortune!
Or only a 68—stopped short—a joke
of the algorithm: so constantly so
it’s close to a consolation. Or a passable
42, when you sense how you might’ve learned
something, or witnessed at last—
possibly learned.

We cannot unhear what we have heard,
says the Governor early, adding:
Protect the ship. It was as if
we could solve the problem,
here in Red Dragon–Hard,
alongside the algorithm that calls itself I,
placed in a bomb like an unruly child.

There are no more moves. This game is over.
You can Start a new game from the top left menu.
Here’s something to do. Any reason not to?
All you have to do is know what to do
this time. Two Flowers, two Green Dragons,
and deal with the rest just a short while later.
Then it will have been done, just after that.


Elizabeth Macklin is the author of the poetry collections You’ve Just Been Told (Norton, 2000) and A Woman Kneeling in the Big City (Norton, 1992). She translated the Basque poet Kirmen Uribe’s Bitartean Heldu Eskutik (Meanwhile Take My Hand), published by Graywolf in 2007. Her work has appeared in The Nation, New England Review, The New Republic, The New Yorker, The New York Times, Paris Review, The Threepenny Review, and The Yale Review, among others. Her awards include the Ingram Merrill poetry prize, a Guggenheim Fellowship in Poetry, the Amy Lowell Poetry Travelling Scholarship, and a PEN Translation Fund Grant from PEN American Center.

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