Wikipedia: Totem, And Taboo Poem by Max Reif

Max Reif


Wikipedia: Totem, And Taboo

Rating: 3.8

The laws of kinship and membership
that applied to the tribes of the stone age
have now made the leap to the Internet—
remaining as binding as ever!

Have you heard of Wikipedia,
that fantastic online resource
of hundreds of thousands of articles,
each peppered with photos and hotlinks,
one on any subject you think of?

I've been using it more and more,
and this morning I noticed
a note on a page:
Welcome to Wikipedia,
the free encyclopedia
that anyone can edit.

Suddenly, there before me
the fields of accumulated
human knowledge,
all orderly, green, and lovely,
lay awaiting my contribution.

Joyfully, I obliged them,
plowing their fertile furrows,
transplanting my delicate seedlings,
caressing tall, waving stalks.

I felt proud to have something to add there,
gleaned from 6 decades of living,
reading, observation and study.

An example: I found an article
about the Cathedral in St. Louis,
my home town, that never mentioned
the building contains more mosaic art
than any other structure on earth!

I added a sentence of text
and put in a link to the photos
I'd taken of those mosaic ceilings,
as fine as any in Europe,

and felt part of the great human lineage
that has brought us here from the stone age
on the shoulders of shoulders of giants,
those giants on shoulder too,
as far back as anyone knows.

I was startled out of this revery
by a notice that appeared on the screen
at the top of a Wikipedia page:
You have new messages!

Bewildered, I clicked on that tab.
A site sentinel named 'davidbd'
had removed every word I'd just added,

and left this note of his own:
'If you advertise your website here,
we'll block you from editing pages at all! '

Ah, the guardian at the Gate!
I hadn't been advertising,
unless you call relevant content an ad,

but I realized I'd transgressed an ancient law.
All things on earth have strings attached.
If anything looks too good to be true,

it is! Every human endeavor
emanates from some community,
whose invisible, ethereal wires
tether things in their places.

These laws are the custodians
of all we hold dear.
There are protocols for entry,
and were that not the case,
we would likely not have
survived evolution at all.

And so, for the thousandth time in my life
I sigh at my naivete'
and humbled, prepare to go 'round
and knock on the front door for entry—

proceeding with the learning
that really matters,
the physics of human relations.

ps: If any of this is obscure to you,
check the article on Anthropology—

Poetry Hound 01 November 2005

I liked your story. Wikipedia is indeed an enticing site. I have found it useful for various bits of research. Regards.

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Linda Hepner 31 October 2005

Wikipedia is as enticing as a coven of witches. I am similarly bewitched by your poem and relieved to find a way out of it. Linda

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Herbert Nehrlich1 29 October 2005

Max that website is run by a bunch of wankers. An example is that several diplomats of the principality I am a citizen of were first listed then some fruitcake decided to remove them and did. I don't think they have any standing. Best H

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Alice Vedral Rivera 28 October 2005

I'm relating to this. Yesterday I added an announcement on that was deleted with the message, unacceptable content. The unacceptable content was the poemhunter web address. avr

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Linda Hepner 28 October 2005

Great great fun, Max! And some wicked morality thrown in. Lots of quotable lines! I shall save this one, Linda

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Max Reif

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