July 24, 2009

Mikhail Horowitz

WILD BILL HACKER
                    A Cyberwestern Ballad

Back when the Info Highway was still a dusty trail
Before the cyberstage come through to speed a man’s e-mail
When renegades like Sitting Mouse would skin the hides off hackers
There was a fella ruled the roost of databank bushwhackers

For Wild Bill the big big thrill was access, total access
He’d broken into databanks from Timbuktu to Texas
He’d back-doored into NASA, Bell, and Pentagon computers
Planting half-breeded viruses to foil pursuing shooters

He’d roll a cybercigarette and offer you a toke
And then delete your mama with a single keyboard stroke
Why in the selfsame breath it took to log on, HOWDY PARD
He’d have the Pope’s unlisted phone and Brando’s Mastercard

They chased him through the Wild Web, those bounty-hunting hordes
They posted wanted posters on a thousand bulletin boards
They combed the random canyons, through gorge and gulch and gurge
But Wild Bill would slip away as quick as a power surge

Now Tombscreen, Arizona, was a tiny one-byte town
The Sloppy Disk Saloon was dark, the DOS Hotel shut down
They had a virtual cathouse, a microsoftcore dive
And Norton Utilities General Store, established ’95

The town attracted drifters, retired keystroke hands
And those who came to disappear in Hole-in-the-Net badlands
Scroll around you, stranger: as far as the eye can see
Buttes of burnt-out terminals, and a lone directory tree

Somewhere in that wasteland, that shadow memory ruin
Where incompatible coyotes howl at a phosphor moon
Up the eroded modem and down the cordless rill
Some kid named Gene of oh, 13, had backtracked Wild Bill

The setting sun was saving all its files in the west
The stars in heaven’s disk were being brightly decompressed
An unsuspecting Wild Bill was booting his machine
When an ominous message—SNORT MY SHORTS—abruptly scorched
                    the screen

I’ll flame your name in cyberhell, the desperado cried
Reaching for the hardware that he carried at his side
Tain’t no way, the weenie scoffed, I’ve sown a jillion glitches
To ride your hapless hacker’s ass like cybersonsabitches

As if on cue Bill’s modem up and blew its brains apart
His VCR began to char his phone began to fart
His fax was going wacky and his teeth, you understand
Were picking up transmissions from the local CB band

Concurrently and violently his laptop blew its top
His microwave exploded and his beeper wouldn’t stop
His Grateful Dead on CD-ROM was programmed to erase
With Yoko Ono’s Greatest Hits imported in its place

Well that was it for Wild Bill; there ain’t much more to tattle
They cheered at his comeuppance in the cafes of Seattle
They knew, from overkill-dot-com to Blogger County Jail
That Wild Bill was roadkill on the Information Trail

And as for Gene, that brainy teen? He left the Web last year
And lives with no ’lectricity. And as for this balladeer
They modemed his Muse to Santa Cruz to be tried for cybercrimes
Including using cyber as a prefix 40 times.

from Rattle #30, Winter 2008
Tribute to Cowboy & Western Poetry