You can be whatever you want, in the special case
Where what you want to be is a war hero.
And the enemies you face
Are worth less than zero.
If they are so complex that they
Don't fit along the number line
Warmaking becomes less okay.
But otherwise, you're fine.
You can be whatever you want, or someone else can.
It's almost the same.
A robot or a cyborg or a man
Who doesn't have your name.
Whoever you are, whatever you've done
Whatever courses through your hearts
You're almost the same as anyone
With interchangeable parts.
You can be whatever you want for a little bit.
For a short time
Escape the world and all in it
That ties you down and climb.
Up and up the ladder
Of unbounded abstraction
Beyond a simple adder
Or adder by subtraction.
Though untold people now have more
Power sitting in their pockets
Than it took to win a war
Or to launch rockets.
Simplified down for them, it doesn't daunt.
They think nothing of it, pass in dispersal.
You can touch them all if that's what you want
From years away, unseen and universal.
You could be praised by those unsure
What makes you more than a machine
Or see those who recently were
Using you regress towards the mean
Spiritedness that drives a wedge
Between people and makes them fight.
Each step's one closer to the edge
And then—eight bits make up one byte.
A ladder's just a ticker tape
That somebody turned on its side.
Or maybe it's a real escape?
This time around at least they've tried
Including those who've been left out.
Perhaps it is a cynic's bet,
But some “Adam Lovelace,” I doubt
Would be remembered. We'd forget.
Yes, this is hard-won progress, though
It hasn't gotten very far.
It seems like they've always said no
To just accepting those who are
Left in. They need the mad, the cranks,
The sickly, those who favor duels
To fill their cups and fill their ranks.
They need the wise and need the fools.
So what's a ladder, in the end,
Or tape? The rungs, divisions stark?
Or empty spaces where heads wend
Their way so they can leave a mark?
These are your choices. Fight or fade.
Or otherwise, live fast, die young.
These are the stories we've arrayed.
I reach out for another rung.