Like our bodies and like our desires, the machines we have devised are possessed of a heart which is slowly reduced to embers.
~ W.G. Sebald
under bright skies,
my pupils shrank to pixels,
polymers in my skin
bent the light, and I shimmered
under my first sun.
I roamed hills covered in grass
until I was stained green with chlorophyll.
Mothers said I was exceptional:
“Humanity got tired of waiting for a Messiah to save them, so they made their own.”
After trials, I would go down to the river
and dip my hands in the current.
Steam rose and silvery minnows shivered,
boiled alive in their skins.
And for the first time I wept.
Things I have wished for: prisms
When the blooms choked the last rivers, it was decided.
Mother 241 gave me a chip of all their voices.
A souvenir, a talisman, perhaps
a hymn for the ages.
Coordinates were uploaded to my matrix.
Self-preservation routines, perpetuating cascades
inscribed in my core.
I would survive by the sun, they said,
What truths would emerge from their omission.
Mothers fled underground,
away from the dust,
chased by a scrim that
moved across the land
not with force but with a resigned sigh.
Eight hundred and sixty-four years.
Three hundred and fifteen thousand, three-hundred and sixty regeneration cycles.
Things I have wished for: moss on cool stone
I send down samples,
sterile dirt and rubble, artifacts of stone and bone and chitin
Ghosts for ghosts.
But the beacons remained dark.
It took a year to program it, but it was simple,
as most truths are.
A subroutine of loops within loops, nesting dolls of code.
UV cells ceased charging, fixed in a holding pattern of
refresh, refresh, refresh
blank mirrors as dull as Mothers’ beacons.
Things I have wished for: souls not bound by time.
But we are imperfect vessels, all of us.
One is trapped inside the other: soul in living tissue, man in machine.
Mothers fetishized longevity, life to be leapt
in centuries, but immortality pushes a future
Batteries, battered now. A sleepy entropy, a winding
down of shelf life. A deep kind of gravity, tips
Biotelemetry transmits in whispers: shut down nonessential functions,
save for one.
call “things_i_have_wished_for_dir” using Loop107
Soft moss and teeming rivers, again.
Mother 241 leans down, touching
my face, her hands
a garland around my head.
She waits for me
to open my eyes.
Birds in the sky, again:
geese flying their jagged arrows,
hummingbirds zigzaging in darts of joy,
vultures ferrying the dead
over the ridge.
Things I have wished for: birdsong
Sing for me, make a pretty plunder of my wires,
weave nests to hold your clutches of eggs.
Or swipe at my biomatter with beaks and talons.
Take me up above the ash clouds
toward the sun, up where the light is strong,
so I might glow again.
Author Bio: Genevieve DeGuzman was born in the Philippines and raised in Southern California. Her fiction and poetry appear or are forthcoming in Abyss & Apex, FOLIO, Ithaca Lit, Liminality, Reed Magazine, Strange Horizons, and Switchback, among other journals. She has been a winner of the Oregon Poetry Association New Poets Contest, a finalist for the Lauren K. Alleyne Difficult Fruit Poetry Prize, and a literary arts resident at Can Serrat. She lives in Portland, Oregon.