Down near the billboard,
by Herbert Nehrlich
on fifty-seventh Street,
right where it intersects
with fancy fifth Avenue
they met, quite late at night
under the neon lights,
in great big numbers,
spilling over into the street.
That night's objective was,
it soon became quite clear,
to ascertain the value of
the various personas,
their place in a society
that did reward its souls
in strange and fright'ning ways,
which really did amount to
the application of tradition,
handed down from forebears,
which were not bears, of course.
The Number Nine stood up,
and climbed upon a soap box,
he'd seen this recently in London,
where traffic was considerably less,
than here on fifty-seventh Street.
With movements that were elegant,
and regal, by their grace and slowness,
he brought the crowd down to its knees
as they were destined to take in the gist
of a numeric wisdom that was without peer,
You see, there were the members of
the Latin Alphabet, as well as the Cyrillic,
then all the Numbers, simply dressed
and those who wore the Roman togas,
but what took up the space up to the River,
was the momentous gaggle of the members
of the Clan of Punctuation, as you can guess,
from Exclamation Marks to Commata and Periods.
And Question Marks plus skinny Semicolons,
the signs of Infinity and Brackets, Dollar Doodles,
as well as Stars and Stripes and Lines and Dashes.
And near the sidewalk's end the Specialty Brigade
had gathered, they were surely different in their looks,
the symbols of Accents and Umlauts, the Math Bits,
it was a wonder that the Number Nine was in control.
A labile silence had descended on the demonstration,
(that's what it was in many ways, I must admit) ,
and then as he began to speak, a true communal
and well-coordinated breath went through the city,
he had them in the palm of his small hook, which is
for those not quite initiated yet, the lower end
of all the Number Nines, if written properly, so now
he let his subtle, overhelming, charismatic voice
lull all assembled figures into what can be described
as a coordinated trance of body, mind and soul,
as could be felt by him, the elderly Co-sinus, leaning
against Square-Root and sharing a Gitane
with Accent-Grave and the blonde and blue-eyed Umlaut.
'My fellow workers, may I open this assembly
by a remark that gets right to the very core,
you all know very well that we depend upon
the great demand by all the humans now alive,
to occupy their papers, what they did call Papyrus
in the so distant past, we are the meat and spices
within the sandwich of communication, think on that!
What sense would there be made of things,
what little value and pizzazz without a question mark?
How would the nerds find words to fit and how
could ornithologists count birds and then describe
them in their books to tell those not so free to see
exotic creatures and occurrences that are
placed all around us to appreciate and treasure,
without the presence of at least a few of us?
It's only luck but also sadness that allows me
to speak to you tonight, as none of you are,
what you should rightfully be on this night,
I mean ENGAGED in the affairs of our world,
for it is clear to all that nothing will work well
if they discarded us or sent us home to play.
And that is it, my friends and numbers, it is them,
they have declared a war on all Papyrus now,
since the invention of that pitiful computer,
(may fifteen @ signs clog the ears of Gates) ,
and Microsoft shall be squeezed into parentheses,
if they are thus allowed to have their way,
and only Puters will use clones of us each day,
no real and respected numeral or letter or sign
will then remain in the community at all.
It is my wish that our future be secured
and there is only one solution to the problem.....'
And then he whispered and gesticulated slowly,
with his hooked tail, it must have surely been
a language of elusive optic symbols, which,
akin to sign language for those who cannot hear,
or speak, the deaf and dumb some say, well,
it was over in a jiffy and they nodded quickly,
and then dispersed into the mist of the old Hudson.
And no one squealed or could decipher naught,
all quiet had returned and a slight drizzle
was washing all the traces into eight-slot drains.
And that, my friends was when the great prediction
of Nostradamus' brother did come true,
as in an instant on that night, after the meeting
the world was swept completely clean of all computers.