There they are, sitting patiently in canvas tents,
playing cards at makeshift tables, eating adequate
food distributed from the mouths of semi-trailers,
including twenty pound blocks of government cheese
and potatoes on the verge of going round the bend,
wondering aloud why they have been brought here,
about the invisible thread that must connect them all.

The internment is not voluntary and yet it is not
wholly unpleasant. Not yet, at least. The internees
seem to acknowledge the temporary nature of their
circumstances by addressing one another with almost
comical politeness, accompanied by raised eyebrows
and wary glances. The room holds the air of truce.

A memo was circulated among them at arrival,
stating that this camp could be considered the
opposite of entropy and that once they discover
the common strand upon which they’re all strung,
they will be free to return to their respective homes.

It turns out the current ruling party is conducting
research into the engines that search the world
and why human memory was once placed in the care
of algorithms. They wonder to what extent a pattern
can remain unknown. The connecting thread is
arbitrary but simple: each of these people uttered
seven words in the English language on the preceding
Tuesday: Hootenanny, Yokel, Deadpan, Hallucinatory,

Fork and Smoldering Glance. The final two words
had to be uttered as a phrase, a rather whimsical
touch proposed by a junior staffer who was charged
with keeping the study within certain parameters.
The result was one hundred and three eclectic souls
ranging from seventeen to sixty-eight years of age,
where males outnumbered females nearly two to one.

There has been plenty of musing aloud in the camp
but little conversation. No one has ever accused
a gymnasium of ambiance. When the final report
is drafted two years hence, the results
will be unanimously inconclusive: one hundred
and two internees will remain – the sole escapee
liberated by a heart that grew tired of waiting
for its fellow brain to realize it is simply a tool
yearning to explain the hand that holds it.

About the author

Michael Bazzett’s fifth book of poems, The Echo Chamber, is forthcoming from Milkweed Editions in 2021. His work has appeared in The American Poetry…

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Issue 16 · October 2012

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