Liber Jonae CAPUT ONE Page CAPH


Can I help you, sir? the pawnbroker said.

Yes, I'm here shopping for an appliance,
Replied Armand, looking vaguely around.

And what type appliance? said the other.
A hair drier, perhaps? A dishwasher?
An air conditioner or a stereo?
An electric can opener, a blender,
A refrigerator or an intercom,
A golf cart or a cell phone or a fan?

Would you, by any chance, happen to have
A combination clock and radio,
One which, at given times, will turn on
And regale you with soft rock favourites,
Traffic reports, crank-hosted talk shows?
And that's what I'd really like to see,
If you have one at a reasonable price.
I must go away every day to work,
And while I'm away my wife is alone,
And so I need a gift to entertain her.
She wants a colour television set,
One of the new interactive models
With screen as huge as a drive-in theatre,
But flat and sleek, ultra high resolution.
But I can not yet afford such expense.

Clock-radios? I sold my last this morning.
But what about some other appliance?
A toaster, say. What about a toaster?

No, a toaster would soon cease to amuse,
And, besides, she already has a toaster.

But wait! I have the very thing you need,
Said the pawnbroker, suddenly inspired.
A thought had struck, one whose time had come,
And he turned around and his eye caught mine,
My blue eye, the unblinking yogic eye,
The one that had not yet fallen off.
He reached up and brought me down from the shelf.
Here's just the thing: an electric parrot.

And Armand said back, What does it do?
I've never heard of an electric parrot.

It is a personal digital assistant.
Handier than a pocket calculator,
More versatile than a home computer;
Not only can it add, subtract, divide,
And multiply and integrate and solve
Any problem, answer any riddle,
And demystify any mystery,
It can also conduct a conversation.
It speaks unaccented Assyriac,
Using easy-to-understand phrases,
Educator-approved vocabulary ,
Non-toxic metaphors and similes,
And with upbeat examples from real life.
It is a fully interactive device,
It will offer advice, foretell futures,
And narrate the most marvellous of stories,
The most blatant and outrageous of lies.

Upbeat examples? This is a new one.
Pollyanna wanna cracker? I thought.
The pawnbroker was almost as inventive
As the paragon of parrots he described,
But clearly he knew not with whom he dealt.
Prophets will rarely wax optimistic.
Harbingers of doom are rarely upbeat,
Rarely prone to strike a positive note,
Rarely inclined to overlook the kind
Of the self-absorbed self-satisfaction
Found throughout this city's environs.
They will rarely dismiss as minor sin
The propensity for self-destruction
Ninevites elevate to high art.
But I, of course, should know better by now
Than think myself an open book to all.
Not all who raven first scream warning,
Not all who are rabid froth from the mouth,
And not all who strike will first bare fang.
Here, as so often, uncommon birds
Endure mistaken identification.
It wasn't long after I awoke here,
Here among the heedless, the undisgorged,
That I heard the pawnbroker give his wife
An appraisal of my provenance and value.

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