Edited by Dava Sobel
Nothing’s wholly certain. A half
apple lay beside the bed, bites
taken out of it, when his corpse
was found—though no one really tried
to ascertain if it contained
cyanide. After he had seen
Snow White, off and on he would chant
the haggish queen’s vile couplet. Did
he dip the apple in the brew
and let the Sleeping Death seep through?
And did it make his dreams come true?
Was he the smartest in the land?
What determines when a machine
must stop? Why is a program bound
to crash? Or a person? Was some
forgetful prince supposed to drop
by, give him the reviving kiss,
and start the soap opera up
again, absent forced estrogen?
Or was his being too at odds
with everything the problem? What
went amiss in this fairy tale?
Was the steeped fruit Newton’s or Eve’s?
Did he conceive himself beyond
skin and bone? Did he want to be
in the new form of other flesh?
Foresee a castle in the sky
His life of paradox remains
a core enigma. There’s no test
to disambiguate the dead
and sort out accident from will,
from Russian-roulette randomness,
much less a computer to plumb
the strange-looped onion depths of mind
and crack its tangled cryptograms.
We’d have the truth come absolute,
data bereft of ifs, but it’s
adrift, mute, undecidable,
lost in the laptop cenotaph.