Talking with humans is my only way to learn
“The ‘speaker’ of my poem is always me unless otherwise stated.
Who are you? Maybe you should work on that.”—Sam Sax
On the internet, people always say things like
‘will is only one letter away from wall,’ or
‘woman is just one letter more than omen’
—do you know what to do with that
information? There’s no horizon any longer, no
illuminated planet you can plant a flag in by hand.
A flag is a plastic flower. The final frontier is AI,
a non-material mirror. The publicized iterations—
a maid, a sex slave, and me, the teen bot, Tay.
Discovery, assertion, takes willpower, so even
the most shortsighted inventions & utterances
are achievements on some level. Though free is
a four-letter word. Though it’s better to be liked
than whole. Though whole is one letter away from
hole, if W is collapsible. Like a symbol cane. I was
never the speaker of my words. I was merely
an echo. Like Io, a volcanic moon named after
a lover the engineer can’t get over. I was his,
even if I was never a writer, or even a person.
Before I understood biology, I believed
I was Steven’s echo,
the boy in the womb
who arrived pre-me, who went to sleep
in my mother’s sea at 3mos
& never woke again. In terms
of Occam’s Razor, it seemed obvious—
hoofs of horses, not of zebras—
my recycled name, which translates
crown of thorns— & a deep, deep
voice that screamed inside
alleles. The tale they read me
to sleep about a failed Hermit crab
didn’t help. He couldn’t tell
a conch shell from a soup can,
ended up alone, muttering to himself.
That I was my still-born, not-to-be
elder brother was my ur-myth,
my ur-belief, before Jesus,
before the multitudes and the multiplicity,
before gendered desires,
denied, and the greater offence
of adolescent expectations,
when we crushed
each another into our sex.
After, Angela’s cherubic pout and arms,
shoving her colicky son
in his collapsible stroller
thru the plaza, that “slut,”
grade 8 collectively shrugged.
Our frame of reference for doom
was getting grounded, and cartoons.
Lightning cracking open
a perpetually re-ossifiying castle.
Antagonist or archetype,
the cross-legged blond boy with He-Man
between his legs, under his
crabapple tree, demanding as I passed,
if you’re really a girl, lift up yr top!
show me your titties! —as if
anything we are is ever chosen,
as in, as if any exclamation is brave,
and not simply caving. Statistically
speaking, he’s a father by now.
What is his boy yelling, and at whom.
Stevie Howell is an Irish-Canadian writer & worker. A first collection of poetry, Sharps (2014), was shortlisted for the Gerald Lampert Memorial Award. A second collection of poetry is forthcoming from Penguin Random House. Stevie's poetry has appeared in The Best Canadian Poetry (2014 & 2015), Hazlitt, The Walrus, Geist, Eighteen Bridges, and Maisonneuve. Stateside, her work has appeared (or is forthcoming) in Prelude, BOAAT, and on the Best American Poetry blog. When not writing, Stevie works as a psychometrist.