The Way the Data Crumbles
There was never an algorithmic sex act. That wasn’t a real breast that flashed like Magritte’s pipe on your tongue. There is no smell of menstrual blood. Still despite the billions of Barbie dolls clogging the ocean, fish attempt to breathe and fall in love. Seahorses organize the territory.
When I still believed in the possibility of a future on earth, I walked along the shore, collecting letters in bottles. One was written in microscript and purported to tell the history of slavery through the allegory of the cave. The others you had to lick to understand.
My Man Godfrey for the Internet Age
When he left Harvard, he threw his cell phone in the Charles, stomped on his Mac air in 365-dollar work boots. Hanging out all day and night at the Food Emporium on East 59th, he’s hired by a hedge fund manager to regulate his offspring’s use of screens. The adult daughter (step-sister to the children of her father’s third wife and Soul Cycle guru) is played by a full color hologram of Carol Lombard. She visits each evening to dilate the children’s eyes to test for Facebook infestation. Always aglow, she’s thrilled by the prospect of having a man to boss around. William Powell, perfectly modulated like unsweetened apricot preserves saves the day so many times, everyone forgets what day it is. Years later, when they are old together and the ocean swallows Manhattan, they are still holding hands, demonstrating the elasticity of proto-apocalyptic feminist marriage.
Dinner at 8
Dinner began with aspic shaped like a falling-down bridge and ended with the Mr. and Mrs. tag-teaming the trifle. Discretion frequently hidden in the petals of the petunia lay naked, prone on the dining room table, waiting for the guests to gasp. Was it the cook or the wind catapulting the dust through the foyer? Was that thud yesterday’s croissants boomeranging the vestibule or the revolution overtaking the streets? Everything smelled like fear which smelled like a combination of ear wax and raspberry vinegar. We curled ourselves inside the curve of a question mark and slept for 8/9ths of a year. Our dreams resembled the clacking of fingers on a keyboard or the gleam of a souffléd omelet dawn. The rhythm of our breath in our sleep was the only consolation for the maid. Their rest is the only relief, agreed the broom.
Barbie’s Anti-Capitalist Dreamhouse Needs No Walls
At age 7, when I removed the arm from my Barbie, I never imagined the arm would grow a face and come to sleep between my middle-aged self and my middle-aged husband. I couldn’t envision how the arm would wriggle at night, how in the morning it would strut into town tickling the eyeballs of the policeman’s panting dogs and blasting feminist Afro-futurist hip-hop through its fingertips.
Who could have known how being in its proximity would create a rainbow aura around my vulva or how it would appear and disappear in my life like the moon on a cloudy evening? I didn’t know then that the dismantling was the first of many actions that would come to define that space between action and metaphor, violence and love, idea and imitation ghost.
The Algorithm Ate My Lunch
I wanted everyone to feel the way my teeth vibrated, but when I posted my glow-in-the-dark selfie only the closet mermaids noticed. I didn’t blame anyone. I knew the oceans were walking heavy-footed on the land. It was one of those afternoons when I was sure that God was the series of tubes connecting my brain to the torso of a deer. Was it possible that the self was larger than the country that birthed it? Could a mouth open large enough to accommodate the girth of a bloated nation’s whale? I hung a sign that read “hope” on the taxidermized body of a whale and waited for applause. Children gathered around to worship, sticking microchips and slivers of sunlight in its missing, blinking eye.
JOANNA FUHRMAN (joannafuhrman.com) was the first poetry editor for Boog City the paper in 2002, coming out of retirement for a three-year stint beginning in 2009. She is the author of six books of poetry, including To a New Era (Hanging Loose Press), The Year of Yellow Butterflies (Hanging Loose Press), and Pageant (Alice James Books). She is also a former poetry editor for Ping Pong and served as the Monday-night coordinator for the poetry readings at The Poetry Project from 2001 to 2003 and the Wednesday-night coordinator from 2010 to 2011. She teaches poetry writing at Rutgers University and coordinates the Introduction to Creative Writing Classes and the faculty and alumni readings. These poems are from a book in progress called Data Mind about digital life as a non-digital native. Other poems from the collection can be read online at The Rumpus, The Journal of NJ Poets, The Brooklyn Rail, and Posit, and in print in New American Writing and Volt.