Sonnets 53 and 54 from 60 Sonnets

by Wellington poet Llewelyn Richards

53 — Computer Love

He holds my hand. With the other he says, Look!

I press these keys, and then, on the screen it should

It doesn’t. I need another program step. Perhaps I could

He pecks, one-handed, and thinks. I muse. If I took

My hand away would he notice? My reflection shook

On the screen when I laughed, but it was no good;

He just went on — my gesture wasn’t seen nor understood.

I see his gestures. What do they mean? Into a hook

He bends his spare finger. A quick lunge. It jags a key;

Taps next; gently rubs; straightens and stabs; as told

By the brain. Each movement displays a mood momentarily.

But no fire runs back from key to man. The hand I hold

I squeeze. That fire runs to burn him, and as a plus,

On program over-ride I get a kiss. The cursor winks at us.

54 — Sexual Harassment in the Workplace

Click, the flip-flop trip ticks.

Snick, the switch teeter flicks.

The tractor feeds clack-clack;

Paper jacks at the back.

Crerk, the pin printer’s jerky.

Tock-tock, we tap Qwerty.

See the C.R.T. screen.

See the flickering sheen.

It is squirting cream sleepers;

Ramrod word-worms in sneakers;

Till, on a trackless tramway

They roll up, up, and away!

Oh see the computeur sit,

Enthralled, the byter bit.

The poet comments: These two sonnets were written in the late 1970s and first typed up on a BBC/Acorn computer, the computer printer was a 9-pin machine with a typewriter ribbon and the paper feed was the sort with a row of punched holes down each side. The sounds in Sexual Harassment in the Workplace were attempts to reproduce the sounds that sort of printer makes.

Also in that poem you might notice the term ‘computeur’. It never became current (as the equivalent of ‘typist’) but I liked the sound and hoped it would. Actually the much more clumsy ‘computer operator’ and ‘data entry employee’ have also had a comparatively short life now that everyone has a computer on their desk. ‘Typesetter’, ‘typographer’, ‘compositor’ and even ‘graphic designer’ have fallen into disuse, no matter how much their skills are sadly missed by some of us, and even unknown to the average computer user.

Te Taa Haeretahi, The Hand-in-Hand Press, 1995
Reproduced with permission of Judith and Llewelyn Richards