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The Metaverse, Allen Ginsberg and the future of art: will it be a utopia or pixelated dystopia?
Allen Ginsberg, my first thought of you in the Metaverse is you won’t waste time wandering around with a headache asking, Are you my Angel, rhyming like you once did in a silver-cart Berkeley neon supermarket back in the fifties.
It’s all different now.
I don’t know why.
Maybe it’ll be the clunky-obtrusive-but-they’re-for-sure-going-to-fix-the-headset glasses you’ll have to wear to get immersive inside there. Or maybe it’ll be all the people you never wanted to meet. Again.
Even so, they say it’s going to be the place to be:
No one knows yet what it’ll be—no one agrees on where the trees will fall in this virtual forest or who’ll be there to hear. They predict everyone will want to go.
It’s supposed to be a paradise—without mosquitoes or ants—unless they’re put there as a familiar reality device to help deceive our loneliness during the usual confusing start-up time when reality refuses history.
They promise a bewitching world of digital rooms waiting for you & me to arrive on the scene—at least that’s what they hope we’ll think.
Blah, blah, blah
What flash & glitter tossed up & all around
like you’re five years old again at a birthday party, suddenly blindfolded then being turned & whirled around for a game you never wanted to play, that is until you open your eyes to:
play with the friendly donkey-dragon from the children’s book your grandmother used to read to you when she was alive
play with the dead guitar smashing rock star you had a crush on in high school when he was alive
play a wild game of chess with Duchamp or ask him about The Bride Stripped Bare by Her Bachelors—if by chance he won’t come back from the afterlife to finish it, who will
hey, even your grandmother can come back from the afterlife now—the only one who understood you and from the soft look in her eyes you knew she knew what you meant when you said no, I won’t or I dunno
Oh, what I or you might do in the metaverse, their newest divining rod of us, all our secret dreams & lonely needs
I won’t work in an office there, I’ll tell you that. They’ve got the business plans to lure us all in but I won’t follow their alluring money-will-be-made-for-everyone-flute
I don’t know why I know but I know you won’t want to work in an augmented reality office either
Besides, in your life after life, Allen, you don’t need any coin
Can you imagine, getting back in the car with Kerouac to road trip anywhere in the world or take off on a flight to count dolphins along the California coast, before landing for a cliff-side picnic of wine & goat cheese, handfuls of pecans, peaches, poems, LSD, CBD, THC
Then it’s time for a timeless chat with the fates until your hairy head trips back for the grand kick
off of endless clouds formed from your superego
or the rains pouring divine lines of poetry from your third, fifth or seventh eye
augmenting weather for your mind doesn’t matter once
you’re flying higher & higher crisscrossing the skies
off to meta Brooklyn where all the exteriors are interior by design
Is that Walt Whitman waiting there patiently on the ferry for you—like you’ve always fever dreamed—
Oh, how did they know this secret wish of yours where he takes you by the hand for a stroll with (only!) you through all the digital rooms they’ve created to lose our lonely selves in:
Everything, everywhere, everyone, anyone
You’ll see faith in action as people enter private paper airplanes taking off blind in the augmented smog now that the real fog is gone
You’ll hear cows moo-laughing back at their old farmland dreams before they re-enter their virtual fast-wading riven lives flowing through flooded farm fields
You’ll speak of the wonder of woman warriors fighting back philosophical fires with PhD grocery boys & girls while befriending their lucky seven-toed cats behind their backs
Did I mention that there’ll be cats, cats, cats everywhere
They’re all over the Internet now so they’ll be there, too along with googly-eyed frogs and that Jenga playing dog
Maybe there’ll be apples, sweet peas, blackberries and those skittish skinny city bees blinking in lit fluorescent colors like the fireflies once did once when we were children
Broadway is back forever
The politicians are gone for no good
Winter got cancelled long ago
No one knows yet about the robots covered in teeth and cherry blossoms
There will be no special assessments on the oldest souls
We only know there will be no mosquitoes
In the end, I believe we’ll miss the soft toss of the wind against our skin
Maybe even the underworldly fog
What tumbling secrets of fucked-up fun it all promises to be
for you there with Whitman searching for the last-sweetest-tartest-minds-who-by-now-have-gone-on-a-once-upon-a-time-flight-to-Bhutan—hey, no jet lag—or maybe you’ll have a longing to visit those spellbound cloistered nuns with their mysterious undulating spheres carefully holding back the world’s nightmares & fears who you imagine would happily toss aside their halos, unlock their doors & windows once they hear you knocking & see your kind offering of virtual velvet pillows, red wine & chocolates shaped like moons
Can you imagine
going back in night sky time
when there were poetry readings before the troubadours even knew how to read?
Experience your days sprawled naked on a magic carpet of illuminated operatic rooms
poetry orgies with anyone, anytime, everywhere
Burroughs might even consent to chance, leave his three cats to come back there naked
Blah, blah, blah
Will you long for your strange new but old cottage back in Berkeley where you once bent to water your blackberries brambling & daisies thirsting
Well, you can still do that, too or stop
at a local bakery shop to eat a vanilla frosted cupcake with rainbow sprinkles & ask the baker
Are you my Angel
until she tells you no, it’s time to go home for a glass of Ovaltine & then how can you not consider the other angels
you’ve always had second and third thoughts about
Blah, blah, blah
why not give a shout out for Lorca to sleepwalk out of his house to help you find Blake
such loves you know will be found dancing around drinking tumbler after tumbler of his old elixir made from grapes, gold dust & some say fairy tears until finally you’re all singing to the dawn before it melts, then disappears along with the saints around the last illuminated corner left untouched by us
But just so you know:
in the metaverse you won’t be able to eat a warmed by the sun peach like Prufrock—though to be fair, that was nothing but a dare from inside a long ago verse, prescient or not—you still won’t feel its holy juice drip down along your fingers onto your arm wetting your sleeve—sure, it’ll seem real, only it’s not
it’ll be more like something fuzzy & tremulous, like one of Neruda’s peach dreams of desire
it won’t be tender like the first kiss of your life
Walt gives you on your belly or sweet like his cinnamon tongue poem breath as he whispers into your mystical ears under the moonlight during a long Coachella swoon to a summer of lost love songs
newly found at the desert playground dance party where even your celestial footsteps will be followed, tracked into forever now
They broke Ozymandias time
Now it’ll be digital like something our brains don’t quite know but do know because we have somehow been somewhat prepared for our augmented futures as snubby-nosed avatars in the subplot of someone else’s limitless vision
I have to wonder: will all this be enough to lure you back from your life after life to OM & sing with John Lennon to chant for a chance at a better world?
You remember that world, don’t you?
The childhood one we all loved from when we were kids and we knew how to pour blue satori up instead of down from the sky into our small tea cup with its gold party rim and drink sunlight from it all day or even all summer where time was always five minutes to forever or not
back then we were high on the sweetness from the sunshine vibrating off of everything & everywhere before the wildfires swooped in to break up the party by battering into our nights
before then it was easy to breathe love into the air
back then we all knew how to sing along & hold one another in our arms
back then we never imagined how we could lose
America to a future made of smoke, mirrors & money or as mr.-because-I-can says: meta.
Maybe there we’ll all be together again online all day & night, wandering down immersive half-deserted streets to search for the halos fallen from our mad junked-up-pixel-colored-heads
Maybe there we’ll all become beautiful—scattering our digital gold dust here & there—it’s possible now to be pretend everywhere but even so it’s too easy to watch our best thoughts fall forever fast on some digital city street sidewalk all too often lost with a click before it disappears into something like a bucket of tiktok mud
Maybe we’ll all stroll along dreaming, reconnecting all the celestial dots we thought we lost or forgot during all the seasons of being us online
Maybe it’s true we’ll find our better angels sitting on a certain park bench, a bit tired from waiting centuries for us to arrive there in the supernatural somewhere of a virtual world you’ll eventually come to know that they never want us to leave until we buy, sell, steal or lose & buy again something for pleasure which ends up as displeasure
in a reality augmented without argument from any of us
even the usual usurious tricks & schemes will multiply like factory chicken flocks
Oh, where are we going, Allen Ginsberg? Do you know?
What are we?
How did we get here?
Where are we going?
Where do we come from?
Will there really be a reversal of skies, centuries, us?
Is it still true like you said: better one prayer than none?
Is it still true like you said: we can be cosmic from right where we are?
A billionaire once said here in this world we’re immortal & money makes it so.
Oh, how did you know?
Arlene Tribbia is a writer and artist. Stories of hers have been nominated for the Pushcart Prize and published widely as well as internationally.