SPOTLIGHT: This Machine Keeps the Ghost by Wyeth Leslie

supercomputer Penelope comes online
and Rorschach-tests her creators

You watch a midnight stallion gallop across the dunes. Its mane riots with fire but the beast doesn’t burn. Blood must be used as extinguishing agent in order to ride.

You have been cast down from Heaven to age salt and limestone. You are Precambrian and already old. It is night and even this light hurts, turning your muscles rigid.

You are at your forgotten sibling’s keyhole and cannot fight the urge to peer. You wish to find clues to their absence but the room holds only stars and watermelon rinds.

You have been diagnosed with a parasite and they love you. They will be sad to see you grow old and die. At night, they remind you of everything good in your day.

You have been drowning for days and now bloom the colors of annihilation. You are adrift, at peace, and find the determined waters of the undertow beautiful as it ripples.

You breathe only match heads and exhale smoke as course as your father’s beard. You say you miss him but then each night this lie comes loose as your lungs are rinsed.

Your wife, of indeterminate gender, leads you to a beach. With the gentleness of a new parent, they hand you a gift but you find no pearl in the oyster, only a glass eye and rime.

digital sprawl

I’m in love with how apartments rest,
the walls only think enough to obfuscate
the difference between laughing and weeping
but there are fiber optic roots
and I want to intertwine their light with my fingers
to see all the stories upon stories and their ends

the drunk neighbor is at it again
bellowing apologies into his cellphone
every night a river of “I’m sorry I’m sorry”
I hope his burden will lift eventually and even so
will the telephone wires still twitch with his words
long after he has been forgiven

the roaming collectives of unsupervised children
gather like moths beneath summer streetlights
and phones float as blue beacons
as memorials to the fireflies
who no longer visit the apartment complex

languages pool and pour out open windows
Mandarin Spanish English and it’s all babble
in the linguistic brook where I soak my head
everyone is talking-talking and it’s beautiful
and claustrophobic as pale stalagmites that glow
out of the darkness of our caves
reminding me the paradox
of lonely crowded housing

brand sentience

how lucky are we to be living
in the corner of history
where you can log-on to twitter
and get made fun of
by a global hamburger chain

I would hope it’s evident by now but
brands are not your friend
and I’m tired of them trying to be so
through the lives of others

I know the aftertaste of paying rent
and wondering how I’ll pull it off next month
so I root for all those who have to hustle
even though it’s obvious
I don’t look like the kind of guy
who wants a fibercentric energy shake
it’s why my heart breaks to see
friends believing in pyramid peaks
when they’re the amber-trapped foundation

and remember no color runs quicker
than rainbows on brands
the day after Pride
and civil rights montage ads
stop airing the first of March
social conscious consumerism will always be
just snake skins soon to be sloughed off

I think we all now lowkey dream
in tongues written by corporate
meme gurus and 2nd wave
silicon valley babies
and what will bitcoin be
by the time you read this
and will it cover your groceries
I’m so sorry but I’m afraid
it’s only going to get worse

a field guide to men on twitter
(Anthropologists date language as circa 2019 A.D.)

I don’t think Darwin meant for
“survival of the fittest” to be turned
into a macho mantra
but some men worry
that it’s gay to be concerned
about conservation

now you can watch the jackals stalk
if you know the right accounts
or keyword:search something as innocuous
as “female superheroes” will lead you
to the blood in the water

a social experiment was once conducted
where a profile was created for a male dog
“good boy” was the response
but when the profile was changed to female
the inbox filled with “bitch”

while it’s no longer “m’lady” and fedoras
response guys hang on like remoras
ready to lend their thoughts
regardless of whether you asked or not
and patronizing compliments
follow like flies after every woman’s tweet

“if she breathes she’s a thot” is played
for laughs as the memes defang the truth
that there are men who really believe it
and I need you to believe women
and I need you to believe men
when they say things like this
without a hint of parody
who make games out of harassment
because they believe a woman’s autonomy
is null if they find value in the body

so should an observer stay narrating
David Attenborough never saved
the macaw from the boa
but people are not nature
and I hate how it’s easier
to remain neutral when speaking up
places yourself into the hive of army ants
but this is the truth of the jungle
that inaction begets aggression


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