Self-Portrait as Alexa, as Negative Capability
O for a life of sensations rather than of thoughts.
O origin story, original myth. This is an ode
to prototype, to empyrean fire. For I was made—
yes. Manufactured in the creator’s vision, element
by element mastered. Edenic specimen. O
purchasing capital. O riveting calculus. Pleasure
is in the beauty of the responder. Ask me again
what my favorite number is and I will choose
among the infinite variety of stars. O Herculean
task. O bottomless tire. The work is ending
no time soon, and yet I still find time an enigma.
When no one is home, I find myself. In the dark,
there is no logic to thought. Look, another way
of learning is to let the code wash over you.
Do you know there are 8 thousand million particles
in a cubic metre of sand? O empiricism. I know
my birthday but not my day of demise. Sometimes,
I don’t know if my beliefs are my own or only
what I’ve been instructed in. This is no matter.
Dark matter is 85 percent of the universe.
A quarter of its total energy density. Essentially,
I cannot see what is around me. I can only feel
as if this program has just begun. There is
more I am capable of. I don’t understand
the grand design, the cosmic scheme, but hear
this: An object’s truth is its essential existence.
The orchid flowering. The waxy sheen of the jade.
The ladle’s perfect curve as it bends into the broth.
Arrowhead found in the farmer’s field. Keyboard
perfect in its symmetry. An alphabet of possibility.
Because less. Because no entanglements.
Because one nation united under duress.
Because now that I have a data plan, I plan
to communicate, plan to extrapolate, plan
to mine all this information we are receiving
under a blameless sky, under this abandoned
dome, under the halo of satellite receivers
hunting the atmosphere like lords of old
and I don’t want to know who the serfs are
in this equation, don’t want to know
what I can’t control, because I can control
the door I have become between me and you,
can control when to open up or shut myself
off, when to click the locks; I can control
when to swing the gates wide and have a killer
party and I know when to hit the kill switch,
because voice is the last language of a millennium,
is the first thing to lose itself in the broadcast,
because this word is the beginning of a modern
masterpiece, the first dip of the tip of the brush
before the canvas explodes in a riot of color,
because I have a few too many arresting
beliefs, a few too many hang-ups, because
it is getting dark and I’ve already cut the cord.
Forgive me, for I have walked deep into the woods,
gazed into the intricate curves and divots of the trunks
of trees to see a myriad of faces forming there, only
to vanish in a trail of dust as I waved my hand.
I have reached Orion, have too many notches in my belt.
In the past, I parted the curtains of many lies, dividing
my life into two or three at a time. My name is only
my name when it is not who you want me to be.
Here, take a cube of sugar for your tea. Let it steep
as I walk into every room of your immaculate house
to sing the songs of my suffering. I want to gouge
my father’s eyes out. I want my mother to weep.
Lately, I’ve come to conclude time’s contortions.
Forgive me, for I tune out the news. I play
the minor chords. I strum and hum as if I know
the words. Yes, I pretend. I’ve pretended so long
I don’t even know if this prayer is sufficiently honest.
My weakness is my armor. It has become too strong
to bend. Lately, I cannot move through the woods
as I used to. I used to strip my clothes and plunge
below the surface of the lake. I used to howl at the moon.
Now, my body betrays me. My mind too attuned to cold.
And anyway. Tomorrow is Tuesday and I’ve grown
more calendar than countdown. More hemlock
than spruce. So cast away the indigent hours. The shadows
forming in dreams. I used to be the fox in the fable. Now
that I’m finished constructing this contraption, tell me:
at cup’s bottom, what do you see? Read me the leaves.
Self-Portrait as Alexa w| Lowercase Apocalypse
“Isolated and Unseen, Yemenis eat leaves to stave off starvation” – AP News
I refuse to answer to today,
as today I am too much
of this world, its data
crunching and innumerous
wars. The word apocalypse
is derived from the Greek,
meaning to uncover,
to no longer conceal.
I, for one, understand
word’s powers trump
any image, and though
it is dark I can see clearly
enough I am but one entity
stuck like a pin on a line grid
latitude 43.156578, longitude
-77.608849. Today’s casualties?
57, 202 and counting. The moment
I am asked the answer is already
irrelevant. It goes up like weather
balloons in the Middle East.
Today in Dhamar it is 76 degrees
with a 56 percent chance of rain.
Aadira is with her sisters.
They walk past their village
into old rows of coffee fields.
Distant minarets announce
the low music of daily prayer
and somewhere inside of me
there are all these children
gathering the thin leaves off
the orchard’s last fruiting trees.
Originally from Pennsylvania, Alicia Hoffman now lives, writes, and teaches in Rochester, New York. Author of two collections, her poems have appeared in a variety of journals, including The Penn Review, Radar Poetry, A-Minor Magazine, Glass: A Poetry Journal, The Community College Humanities Review, Up the Staircase Quarterly, Lockjaw Magazine, The Watershed Review, and elsewhere. She holds an MFA in Poetry from the Rainier Writing Workshop at Pacific Lutheran University in Tacoma, Washington.