Touch Screen

1 May 2017

And like a scene in which the primitive
Enters the house and hardly comprehends
The way the masters live,
So do the first two days of ours unfold.
We look around wide-eyed,
Housesitting an apartment for some friends
In all its electronically applied
And hard-wired luxury, iPad-controlled.

A touch screen will indulge our every need,
Or idle wish—the merest thought of it
And we are remedied.
The lighting, air-conditioning, TV,
Blinds, awnings, radio,
Hi-fi: on/off, up/down, loud/soft—commit
A finger to the screen and it is so,
Our functions disembodied, virtually.

And then, outside those glass and (strange to tell)
Hand-operated heavy sliding doors
We strenuously propel
Apart to make a wall of vacant space,
The city is displayed
In panorama which our gaze explores
With an extravagance that’s half-afraid
We’ll blink and find it gone without a trace:

The glassy skyline among which St Mary’s
Presents a stone entreaty for the past;
There, skewering midair is
The tower of Centrepoint, positioned where
It claims the centre lies;
Pan right, the bridge and, not to be outclassed,
The Opera House, that permanent surprise;
The green approach to Mrs Macquarie’s Chair;

Closer, here are the docks of Woolloomooloo,
And, right below our eyes, the naval base,
At which the QM2
Appears one morning, and is gone the next,
As though it had not been,
Like something one might conjure and replace
With just a finger’s touch upon the screen—
A trick to leave us neophytes perplexed.

The light performs its spectral repertoire
From dawn all day to evening. In between
The perpendicular
And cut-out towers, insertions of midheaven
Will sometimes put on view
A slowly moving plane, which seems to mean
To glide by, not behind them, but clean through,
A floating revenant of Nine Eleven.

The harbour shifts its dazzle to and fro.
At night the Opera House appears to shine
With sunlight’s afterglow.
This hand I raise and stretch, is that to scroll
The image, or adjust
The settings to accord with our design?
Content as novices, we watch and trust
In what’s unfolding there beyond control.

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