The Invention of Television

by John F. Buckley and Martin Ott

One-point-seven million years ago.
A savanna on the outskirts of another
savanna. Three anonymous hominids
combine some sheets of shale, vines,
the juice from certain berries, lightning
bugs, and the circuit board from their tribal
GPS, which happened to be the spine
of their departed medicine woman
with unerring direction. The first rabbit
ears were from a hare ancestor without
the hops. Everything was fueled by fire,
tongues of flame crackling like mnemonic
static, laugh tracks recorded in the hearts
of coals, red-lit shadow-puppet commercials
projected on the smoothest wall of the cavern,
applause signs inscribed in smoke. Reality
shows sizzled with the steaks of mammals
behind whose skulls sat evening newscasters,
whose sturdy femurs were featured in home-
improvement programs. Tar pits syndicated
the comedic moments of men hauling ass
from fanged terrors, each vertebrate projecting
the pixels and passions on a black screen.
The Pleistocene Department of Standards
& Practices cut out two-thirds of all mating
hoots on the Homo habilis telenovelas,
but that couldn’t stop a new breed
from syndicating their dramas and follies,
from inventing religion as a way
to sell more stones, from sending new
actors into battlefields and bedrooms
often confused for one another,
from jumping the prehistoric shark.

John F. Buckley and Martin Ott began their ongoing games of poetic volleyball in the spring of 2009. Since then, their collaborations have been accepted into more than seventy journals and anthologies, including Drawn to Marvel, Evergreen Review, Rabbit Ears, and ZYZZYVA, and gathered into two full-length collections on Brooklyn Arts Press, Poets’ Guide to America (2012) and the forthcoming Yankee Broadcast Network (2014). They are now writing poems for a third manuscript, American Wonder, about superheroes and supervillains.