Jonathan Harrington

Turning Sixty; Selfie; Signals from Earth; The Death of Words; I Am Not A Robot: Jonathan Harrington

Turning Sixty

I will almost certainly never
play line-backer for the Dallas Cowboys.
I may never go back to Tunisia
to explore the ruins of Carthage,
I see enough ruin
each morning in the mirror.
I will not be climbing Mt. Everest.
I am reasonably certain
I will never sleep with Jennifer Lopez
—but what the hell—it’s her loss.
I could still parachute
out of a light plane over Patagonia
or go hang gliding over the Copper Canyon
or bungee jumping in Botswana
but I don’t want to do any of that anyway.
The only extreme sport that interests me is sex
every once in a while until that is gone, too.
I can’t chat with Jorge Luis Borges
about epistemology or the etymology
of the Bulgarian word for carrot
in a café in Buenos Aires while sipping mate
because Borges has already gone on.
I will never smoke opium
with Lithuanian expatriates in Katmandu—
not that I couldn’t
but at 60 you must decide
what it is you really want to do
with the time god has loaned you
until the balloon payment is due.
I will never be the president of the United States of America
though I still have a shot
at president of the local poetry society.
I may yet write a great poem
although I know it’s not this one.
I may still live to see humans
set up housekeeping on Mars
but I will not be inhabiting
any space-colonies, thank you.
Someone once said most things in life will never happen.
But one thing is guaranteed.
You know what I mean.


How can I be anyone if no one knows me?
Sure, I could look in a mirror
for some kind of validation
but so what?
Me looking at me.
That doesn’t prove anything.

But when I extend my right arm
to its limit with my cell phone in hand
like that famous painting
by Michael what’s-his-name
with God reaching out to Adam
I begin to create myself.

With the slight whirr and click of the camera/phone
I am born.
I upload myself to Facebook, Instagram.
Download to my hard drive, post it on my blog,
attach it to a text message, to LinkedIn, Pinterest, Tumblr, Tic-Tok, Flickr.
and soar out into the world.

Soon I am alive
In the eyes of hundreds,
maybe millions!
Who knows I might go viral.
I might live forever.

Each morning I give birth
to myself like this.
I can even decide
With makeup
and hairspray
who I am today.

Signals from Earth

Locked down
in solitary confinement
in the shadow of this monster

we record our poems, our secret dreams,
we declare
our forbidden loves.

Like lost children we cry out
over social media, the technology itself
indifferent to our loneliness.

Our fragile voices
are faint sparks
in the darkness of cyberspace,

dim flickerings of speech or images or scripts,
feeble cries in the blackness
of an infinite universe

barely audible signals imploring
anyone who will look or listen to remember this:
“we are here.”

The Death of Words

The pandemic, the disease, the virus…
whatever you choose to call it (I can no longer say its name)
is already killing off words.

How can you not be paranoid when everyone is paranoid?
Relaxed, calm, unconcerned…
those are the psychopaths now.

What’s wrong with those people?
Why aren’t they like the rest of us?
In other words: TERRIFIED?

Frightened…what’s that?
“I’m afraid,” is like saying “grass is green.”
Just stay six feet away from me…please!

Embraces, kisses…
those are weapons
as lethal as hand grenades or an AR-15.

Party, fiesta, gathering…
They may as well eliminate those words
from the dictionary altogether or at least change the definition.

Party (noun): A social event where a group of
SUICIDAL MANIACS gather to talk, drink,
eat, dance, etc…

Or maybe a footnote would do…party*
(*a ritual of the past
where people not only stood in close proximity to one another
but even dipped chips from communal bowls of guacamole).

As you shelter in place and practice social distancing
amuse yourself by making a list
of all the words the virus has already killed off.

How about this one _________________________________


I Am Not a Robot

I have identified
which photos contain a taxi.
I am not a robot.

I have selected which images
contain a bridge.
I am not a robot.

I have pointed out
which pictures do not show an umbrella.
I am not a robot.

You mean it’s that easy?
That’s all that separates me from a machine?
The ability to look at some bleak urban scene

and point out which one
does not contain a motorcycle?
And then…I am not a robot?

Or look at some goofy script
and point out LZNDR
and that makes me human? Not a robot?

Need I say more?
Apparently not.
I am not a robot.


Jonathan Harrington has published twenty books including poetry, novels, essays and translations.  A graduate of the Iowa Writers Workshop he has lived in Mexico for over twenty years. His latest book of poems is The Frozen Sea Within Us: New & Selected Poems ( The book covers forty years of a life in poetry.