When I was a boy, a long time ago,
I met a prehistoric, steam powered
computer. It was a beautiful thing
with valves and guages and pipes
tying sophisticated knots
the likes of which had never
before been seen.
The computer smiled and whistled
and challenged me to a game of chess.
So we sat on the grass and played.
Again and again, no matter what I did
or how I played, I could not win.
The computer, hissing
with laughter, would let me
see victory, taste it, smell it,
then snatch the prize away.
For years, I went back to the tree where
the computer waited and sat down
on the grass to play.
The game became the Mount Everest
of my childhood and I always fell,
gasping, just short of the summit.
I grew up. And finished school. And
found a job.The prehistoric, steam powered
computer went to the place
that such contraptions go.
But years later I came across
the computer again. It eyed me
from the box, pipes a tangled mess,
and I fired up the boiler so
I could scale the mountain once more.
And a minute later, down
the bottom right of the screen,
in white, 12 point font, were the words,
“YOU WIN”. There were no fireworks.
There was no music. The words
didn’t flash. It was like Hitler
shaking Churchill’s hand: “Well done.
See you again next week.”
As if there had been no struggle at all.
Mount Everest was reduced to
a mole hill but I sat on the grass, empty,
wondering if I would ever find a mountain
quite like that one.