Friday, February 24, 2012

"The Traveling Salesman's Abstract", Mark Pietrzykiowski

The Traveling Salesman's Abstract

Marc Pietrzykowski

Pardon me, ma’am, but I couldn’t help

noticing — are you familiar at all

with our 28,000 structures, sequences,

bibliographic citations, taxonomic classifications,

and sequence and structure neighbors?

We’ve extracurricular activities, Girl Scout meetings,

thermal anomalies, witch doctors…

all life-industry specific, no junk.

28,000! people still use traditional units sometimes,

but the wound is always there,

the need for new categories, external assets,

“in bounds” and “out of bounds,”

rules about who can have which sort of bird,

be it hawk, falcon, or eagle,

and be seen with it on their wrist. Ancient vases

and jars, figurines, furniture, lanterns and bird cages…

Aside from correcting the well-known defect, aside from

the ease and convenience therewith,

you’ll note that such a wealth is manifest in the spiel

we devote a sizable portion to hunting the poor,

often with pheromone-spritzed clipboards, they

don’t know to help themselves, we fix them.

How many structures have you squirreled away?

1,062? Half of them amphibolies? How sad.

You cannot share

and we cannot share with you.

Moonlighting might be the answer;

you could find yourself part-time work that’s fun,

fulfilling and financially lucrative.

A large part of the audience tunes in

just to watch the sideshow. Catch them!

Sell and be sold and your structures

and structure sequences might manifold.

Like living in a pop-up book. Exciting!

Or… let me check with the inscrutability vortex…

Ok, just this once, I am authorized to help,

just a bit. But who am I? Why listen? My ethos?

Why, my dear, I am the cat question.

I am a burst valve or two away from stopping altogether.

I’m one who’s learned to systematize, sister.

I can find a path through a weighted graph

which starts and ends at the same vertex,

includes every other vertex exactly once,

and minimizes the total cost of edges.

That’s right, doll, I’m the traveling salesman

and I’m here to make you feel a greater good.

"The Traveling Salesman's Abstract" by Mark Pietrzykiowski originally appeared online at Clutching at Straws. In a recent post he included W.H. Auden's requirements for a personal Eden, one of which was 2 Months of winter (Dec/Jan), including at least 1 heavy snowstorm that makes everyone have to stay home and drink cocoa. Pietrzykiowski's most recent collection, Following Ghosts Upriver, was published in 2011.

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