On No Longer Being the Answer to Life, the Universe, and Everything

So Wednesday comes and goes and with it this
long year will perish too. And I will miss
and wonder at its passing; but I’ll owe
thanks for wisdom briefly mine to know.

For once my forty-third year has its start,
all pretense of great insight will depart.
The “me” that will remain will have to quest:
fish aimlessly for clues, like all the rest.

This was written for a class exercise: write a poem using some constraint. I wasn’t really getting anywhere with this exercise – ironically, it offered way too much freedom! Any constraint? What constraint? I struggled with that for a long time, and eventually decided to just try something fun for my upcoming birthday, when I’d turn 43. Which means I’d no longer be 42, which is rather significant for fans of Douglas Adams’ seminal humor/sci-fi series The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, wherein it is revealed that the answer to Life, the Universe, and Everything is the number 42. (Ah, but what is the question? That required a bigger computer….) So the joke is that I’m getting done with my stint incarnating that great Answer. The constraint (other than the iambic pentameter and rhymed couplets) is that each line begins with one word from another crucial phrase from that series: “So long, and thanks for all the fish.” That was the text of the message that the dolphins left for the humans, just before the former fled the Earth to escape its demolition (to make way for an intergalactic highway construction project).

It’s doggerel, but I actually ended up enjoying the exercise. 🙂

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