poem index

sign up to receive a new poem-a-day in your inbox

Recorded for Poem-a-Day, June 15, 2018.
About this Poem 

“I’ve been fascinated lately with algorithms and the things we expect computers to do for us. This poem came out of an internet search of the thousand most popular questions people googled in 2017 (and the astounding profit they generated for Google). Even though many of the questions seem vapid, I can’t help thinking that what we want to know, ultimately, is how to live. This poem is for my dear friend, the writer Nina Riggs, who died in February 2017 and who taught me the best answers I know to that question.”
—Rachel Richardson

Questions

If there’s one true thing, it’s that 
Google will make money off us no matter what. 
If we want to know 
what percentage of America is white 
(as it seems we do) 
what percentage of the population is gay 
(as it seems we do) 
what percentage of the earth is water: 
the engine is ready for our desire. 
The urgent snow is everywhere
is a line by Edna St. Vincent Millay, and 
many have asked, apparently, 
where am I right now. Also 
when will I die. Do you love me 
may be up there, generating 
high cost-per-click, but not 
as high as how to make pancakes, 
what time is it in California. 
So many things I wanted to ask you, 
now that you’re gone, and your texts 
bounce back to me 
undeliverable. Praise to 
the goddess of the internet search, who returns 
with her basket of grain, 
67,000 helpful suggestions
to everything we request: 
how to solve a Rubik’s Cube, 
what to do when you’re bored, 
how old is the earth, 
how to clear cache, 
what animal am I, 
why do we dream, 
where are you now, come back.

Copyright © 2018 by Rachel Richardson. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on June 15, 2018, by the Academy of American Poets.

Copyright © 2018 by Rachel Richardson. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on June 15, 2018, by the Academy of American Poets.

Rachel Richardson

Rachel Richardson

Rachel Richardson is the author of two books of poems, most recently Hundred-Year Wave (Carnegie Mellon University Press, 2016).