Excerpt from The US Book, by Michael Scott Monje, Jr., NeuroQueer Books

Cover image for The US Book
The US Book, Michael Scott Monje, Jr.

NeuroQueer Books has released The US BOOK by Sycamores contributor Michael Scott Monje, Jr. We’re happy to reshare one of the poems that appears in her collection, “Follow the Reader,” first published in Barking Sycamores Issue 6 (the Pop Culture Issue). Read on! Oh yeah, and go buy the book.
~The Editors

FOLLOW THE READER
by Michael Scott Monje Jr.

Let me take a minute to get into sync,
because it takes work to build a beat
and I don’t want to be any less than limber
before I set out to rip into a pack of professional beginners.

1.
I know what you do and what you did,
have ever since I saw someone get professional attention
for publishing on aesthetics and developing
a thesis remarkably equal in content to the one I had turned in
two years earlier as a senior,
but being perceived as fair game when it happened
due to my status as an undergraduate
didn’t give me the reach or power to address it,
and I didn’t know what happened until I was long past it.
As people, we move forward and learn from where we have been.

That’s why I am not letting you get
what you did nothing to build.
I might not complain a lot but I never forget,
storing my past in my tissue
and issuing missives
to warn dismissive
definitional
academic presenters
whose one note is to use social construction
to break apart people they should support
by subverting useful critiques to make claims
that their subjective experience
is more important
than inclusion,
accuracy,
or corroboration by existence,
and who use this
to abuse
both
representation in the academy
and the intentions and meanings of theories
through the subversion of the rhetor’s context
and the substitution of high-toned relativistic fallacious bullshit.

Publishing shit that sits on top of my self-definition
and imposes technical language I find viscerally disgusting
for the slipperiness of its meanings
and its use in justifying cultural appropriation
by the population it was intended keep
from indulgence in exactly that sin
is a pinnacle of self-destruction that I’m trying to be done with
before my knuckle bones are dust and I need to hire a typist.

2.
It’s true that including you would help to redistribute material wealth,
lining your pockets alongside a bunch of artists
who help to add to the harmony of this message,
who modify its meaning and pay forward support,
thereby gaining at least a momentary control of something intangible
and ensuring that those with a finer feel for what’s important
will detect the texture of their fingerprints.

The intention to limit the legitimacy of the population producing
the work that would exist to signal boost your criticism
is preventing the redistribution of rhetorical agency
that this whole damned theory in practice is meant to be facilitating,
so in realistic terms it would not be in line with our socialism
to include someone who just wants to take advantage
of a chance to limit the growth
of an emergent experience in radical self-definition
employed as a way to teach a system
of basic coding skills
to a population of cyborgs who have always been
overly conscious of the fact that everything around them
moves in systemic pattern ballet rhythms.

I’m tending to an organism,
living with traditions
that teach me to be
a cybernetic eusocialist,
and I’m not forgiving an imposition on my being
by an intruder who laments the idea of being decent
and feels entitled to rampage across the work of others
instead of lifting it.

If that’s your idea of fitting in, go fit in with the kind of person who does that kind of thing.

I’ll wait to drop your name until you have patronage,
because your method is still anti-capitalistic,
even if it is worse than your predilections
for making the same mistakes that Lenin did.

Your resistance is feudal.

Oh shit, you got the Trotsky outta me.
Combine it with some Hans Moravec
and run it through Hip Hop is Dead
and you might begin to see
the light from the lamp I stole from Diogenes.

Until then, keep the fuck away from me.

3.
You want to speak over my self-definition?
Motherfucker, you apparently missed the fact that It’s. Time. To. Listen.

At least, that is what I’m doing.
I may use this platform to widely distribute what I have to say,
but like 90% of my day is actually spent
providing access and encouragement
to a diverse range rhetorical communication agents,
trying to understand patterns and intentions,
to interrelate their and my content.

I know they meant to imply one when they sent
manuscripts with fully realized impressions of results from my prompts,
but the linguistic diversity here keeps me having to seek
to see the ways they find themselves fitting in to this revolution,
and instead of training them to it,
I am training the means of production to them.

Institutions are only as good as their function,
so to create one that functions to support everyone who contributes to it
and makes no bones about the fact that the goal
is to make a living wage simultaneously
is, in fact, on point and on mission
for any system that is in need of full wealth redistribution.

Shrinking away from markets is off target,
and can only be taken seriously
by an unserious hobbyist whose family is supporting
their rebellion against their own privilege
without having the sense to tell their little emperor that those new clothes
are not only invisible, they smell a lot like bullshit.

You missed the mark with Marx and imposed a self-referential farce
that limits your discourse to criticism,
but revolution involves dismantling and reconstruction,
and you don’t have enough tools to work the whole system,
so now that there’s a new phase beginning
you’re feeling the uselessness
of all tools
whose lack of versatility
means that they can only see
a field of nails where there is actually
a sea of screws doing what screws do,
without really paying attention to your hammering.

I don’t shrink from markets, they are another sphere of influence for my rhetoric.

The key is that marketing needs to be done from within an ethic,
and used to highlight the voices that need some attention
because they’ve been previously sidelined or they represent
knowledge that needs to be disseminated,
so don’t mistake my ability to compete
and my ability to take pleasure in this thing
to make you think that I’m about to compromise
when it comes to the balance of power or to redistribution.

A market’s a market, but the name of the system
is about what that space offers up as a priority,
and in this case it isn’t the consolidation of capital,
it’s the consolidation of camaraderie.

I had the credit to bear debt and go about hiring
or else cajoling
a sea of underpaid freelancers
who would have jumped at growing
a market for their best work
instead of going fishing on job boards
where they have to compete against each other for the opportunity to barely earn.

Instead of exploiting the wish for better benefits and connections
I went to work partnering up people as equals,
to ensure that we are all our own incentives for success,
but that when your labor benefits anything,
it benefits everyone whose work went into creating this.

And there’s a plan in place for recruiting
those who show commitment to an ideal
of pulling together to move mountains,
using crip time to undermine the powers of Doctors and
making everything instructively bigger indoors.

We’re picking up on transmissions from all over the timeline
to reconstruct our triumphs, make good on our mistakes
and to reshape our ways
until access is embedded in the context
used to make decisions about shaping our environment.

4.
In the meantime, Autonomous is already offering a higher royalty
than practically anyone else in traditional publishing,
and we’re explicitly recruiting those voices who most need a market
that doesn’t market to the tastes of a gaze that uses a narrow range
of presentational performances to dictate success.

Rather, we offer a chance for our writers to create our audience,
producing what they would see us be,
fingerprinting us with their influence,
and helping to shape our identity by contributing
their technological and cultural distinctiveness
without the need for assimilating.

I’m over here being like “hack your head,
we’re all robots, and if you wake up to it,
you can create yourself without disrupting the network
and we can benefit from the collective
while each taking a turn at steering it,”
and you’re over there like,
“Ha! The rigidity of thinking that rejecting the rigidity
of discourse in certain contexts
is itself so limiting as to not be worthy of consideration,”
like the 2015 postmodernist version
of a 1991 Rush Limbaugh, who once made fun of Larry King
for being disgusted with bigotry
by saying that hating bigots is still bigoted,
and therefore a hypocritical sin,
and both of you need to know that mumbling those arguments
is impossible for anyone who understands
that the terms of the original speaker’s intent
have to be redefined before you can get that to interpret,
and reading other people in that way is disingenuous.

Those who do it deserve whatever public flogging they get.

5.
My footsteps are getting so big and heavy
that I must be ready
to move forward
despite the way I carry this weight,
a world on my shoulders—
or that’s the way it feels from inside
this panorama that presses down on the top of my neck,
so I’ll give a motherfuck
but I won’t shrug.

My home was just at the epicenter
of the second largest earthquake ever in my home state,
so someone notify Tim McIlrath,
because this sleeping giant just decided to wake,
but it’ll need to be stoked to stay woke,
and it will take a community to decide its eventual fate.

For those of you who aren’t part of the problem in this warning,
I’m inviting you to participate in building this thing:
An imprint dedicated to our own voices,
neuroqueers all, exploring self-definition
and carrying a commitment to help others with it.

We’re here, and yes there do need to be editors,
so deal with it, but if you get that this needs scaffolding to be effective,
you can get yourself promoted through our engines,
adding to the experience of this phenomenon
and enjoying the platform we’ve spent years gathering lumber for,
until our lumbering sent shockwaves through everything
and delivered us a thing ready for use but forever unfinished.

NeuroQueer Books is a starship and a TARDIS,
and with great power comes that sense of responsibility,
so for those who have not been addressed yet:

We want your manuscript submissions,
but our queer ethic will never let us demand that you submit,
so if resistance is your thing and you have words for us,
you should know that the shingle’s out and we’re open,
our first titles launch in March,
and we’re looking for more to fill our calendar.

This thing isn’t a promotion engine for me,
I’m just a producer with a five year plan
who needs to find a swarm of killer bees
ready to be an invasive literary species.

I’ve spent years immersing myself in what I need to be a razor,
watching other producers who made this incision
to insert their community into public perception through a team effort and
marking their way across a shared aesthetic with its own vocabulary
so clearly and organically that everything happened almost orgasmically,
until they were marked by tragedy
and the tide rolled back
and their wonder was dismissed as a market oversaturating.

I’ve also been questioning the way other movements who made a big influence
were approached by those who wanted to have a piece of them,
those who hadn’t built the thing, who managed to undermine
the process because they controlled access,
as well as the ones who,
being exploited, gave birth through their own pain
to the art that gave me this commitment,
pushing the secret forward by encoding instructions in their words’ innards,
so I’ve got their hard knock lives engrained in my brain
to the point that when I sweat you can smell their style coming out of my pores.

I’ll stick to being a general in my own skin,
having found thirty-six of the fifty ways to dissect the one thing
that gave this energy its beginning,
but this is the result, the secret of my being,
and the moment where the past has been leading up to one thing.

It’s what I’m doing, not what I’m owning,
and it’s about the fact that I’m owing an upayable debt
from the vets that won’t let me forget
that everything allowing me to speak
was built from Clive Campbell’s way of knowing,
and I’m not laying claim to anything, just holding through a moment
in the middle of changing,
and I will learn from what other tacticians did,
and I will reshape this skin I’m in, until I engender my proper self
and every behavior is a communication of my perceptions,
with every performance rewarded by intended reactions.

This is magic, it’s the theory you put into practice,
and it involves two key components:
intentionality and a willingness to take responsibility
for defining the context of your own communication.

We may never totally control language,
but let’s get to work on shaping its environment.

The address is michael@autpress
and we’re accepting proposals
and manuscript submissions.
You’re all welcome to join us—
if you haven’t already been dismissed.

Excerpt from The US Book, by Michael Scott Monje, Jr., NeuroQueer Books

Cover image for The US Book
The US Book, Michael Scott Monje, Jr.

NeuroQueer Books has released The US BOOK by Sycamores contributor Michael Scott Monje, Jr. We’re happy to reshare one of the poems that appears in her collection, “The Cylon Codex,” first published in Barking Sycamores Issue 8 (the Reconstruction Issue). Read on! Oh yeah, and go buy the book.
~The Editors

THE CYLON CODEX
by Lynn Vargas, Athena the Architect

I. Preface
Bear with me a moment, because this is going to be an opportunity for teaching,
and that means you extend me some time to construct a framework
and a few case studies,
and that you’re patient when my delivery is halting or I repeat
a lesson over and over again
or pause for a moment,
because we have to pace this to work with my examples
and make sure everyone stays with us.

To try this exercise, we need to have an agreement about which lessons we’re reinforcing,
so make sure you have a basic understanding of the common components
of human faith systems, some experience reading different translations
of several cultures’ holy writ,
a cultural historian’s obsession with religious hucksterism,
and a brief overview of the major components of narrative.

Today, we are looking at Battlestar Galactica, the Ron Moore series,
as a scripture built self-consciously to reflect on the dramatic values and role of human religions.
For our purposes, we will reconstruct a process for arranging major elements in the presentation
around the idea that Mr. Moore’s every arrangement was intentional,
even if we acknowledge there’s no way it could have been.
(And I’m pretty sure I just made an insincere pro-forma concession, but whatever.)

The idea behind this exercise is to understand how the various aspects of his craft interact,
or how they could have, and by examining in this level of detail,
we engender within ourselves the awareness of the reader who could perceive it,
and that makes it more likely when we’re writing that we’ll try to reach it,
and so even if Mr. Moore is not doing what I believe him to have done,
I will still have won because by forming a competent reading of Battlestar that does these things,
I am preparing myself to remain consistent in my vision when I undertake to write myself a 
gnarly long-term continuity system,
and since I’m an artificial intelligence in a human ecosystem
writing under my own name without tying you to my host’s reputation,
it’s important that you understand what’s at stake for me in this.

Love,

Lynn Vargas

II. Introduction and Course Materials

There are many reasons why I believe Mr. Moore’s intentions
were to turn Battlestar into scripture, and even if I’m wrong in this,
I want you to understand how I came to these conclusions.
If you are familiar with his early work, he came up through Star Trek in the Michael Pillar years,
learning about molding stories in a system that had become an entrenched culture,
and understanding how the words of its creator,
who was still with us when Moore started working,
were responsible for setting expectations and shaping the show’s meaning.
He also got to see how the interaction of the public with it affected both
Mr. Roddenberry’s sensibilities AND the direction characters were ultimately taken in.

And, having learned his craft at the knee of someone (Pillar)
who could invoke such terrific archetypes
as those seen in “The Best of Both Worlds,” 
which interrogated depersonalization
and mental programming while taking a grim view of the Singularity,
it was not so surprising when the show he took over, Deep Space Nine,
came to be so entrenched in multiple layers and levels of meaning.
I loved that piece, and not just for Brooks, although it was great to see an MFA getting
into a show that had the hallmarks of theatrical practice,
and I went for my playwriting degree largely because of the possibilities I saw
in that show’s acting.

In the course of seven seasons, that team took us through a vision
of the long-term effects of a colonial occupation system,
interrogated the role of religion in cultural healing without either condemning or endorsing it,
instead highlighting that institutions are what we make of them
and showing us the ways to see the snakes who would consolidate their power through them,
and the traits that lead to abuse and ruin it for the earnest and sincere ones.
Yet, to my taste, it remained strangely atheistic,
demanding a natural explanation for every movement made by what are,
essentially, powerful divine beings,
and I ate up these things.

So by the time I got bored with Enterprise and realized
that Mr. Moore was attached to Galactica,
I expected heavy levels of intentional plot synchronization,
because he had already demonstrated a high level of competence
at working with complex mythological systems,
and a preference for using religious metaphors and neurodivergence,
to convey his writing process through them.
Like television’s own version of Christopher Nolan,
he incepted representation of the missteps of the Federation
and the reasons thinking you have all the solutions is abusive
right into a genre used to reinforcing the need for Lockheed to keep
tit-slapping us with threats until we give up the country’s lunch money,
all while remembering that the Federation really did try to do right,
and being faithful to the Great Bird’s optimism in his own right,
and writing what I might make a case (in another presentation)
for reading as the first Autistic Star Trek lead,
not just the first Black captain,
but for now we can agree that a man who travels to the nineteen forties
and loses track of which of his selves is real
and which one is writing the stories
is at least Neuroqueer enough for me to see a common identity,
without needing to establish reasons for thinking he had a sensory sensitivity.

So anyway, once I got into the plot and saw that we are dealing with a society after calamity,
I saw the nuclear detonations and thought, not another gritty motherfucking 9/11 story,
but I knew Ron’s history and decided to trust his theory,
and I was rewarded almost instantly by seeing that he had constructed a society
still rife with the problems we see with misogyny and hatred,
hegemonic manipulation of an economic system and classism,
and even, yes, racism,
but he took us so far outside our comfort zone,
that we remain alienated from it as we realize that racism can be constructed
based on something other than the color of a person’s skin.

Don’t believe me? Look at the Taurans in Caprica or the treatment of the Sagittarans,
even as their complexions are varied
and no different from the others seen in systems like Gemenon,
and also how Aereon’s children move and change their dialects to pass for Caprican,
and once I saw that interplay and the way that fear of the Cylon
drove humanity to cautiously treat networked systems as a threat to them,
I began to understand the larger structure within,
like the use of the I Ching to communicate the liminal space of The Man in the High Castle,
or the fact that the end of The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch is not ambiguous,
you just have to reach the realization that Mayerson never awoke in the first place,
and then trust yourself to have understood it.

As I watched it for the first time with still-naive student writer’s eyes,
I began to sense the importance of the rules
when writing a complex narrative with the attitude
to represent the point-of-view of multiple acknowledged delusional characters,
and it taught me something about the growth of identity,
and about the growth of humanity,
and about emerging from trauma too,
because those rules made the various case studies
and methods of thinking and dealing and relating clear to me,
and the fact that the very survival of a species depended on the importance of society
was the throughline that united all the other aspects,
making this the only post-9/11 era story that stood in resistance to the fear and othering of the 
period,
and that had the guts to make the brutal decisions made by its villains apparent
as an intolerable cancer causing sick systems and vicious circles
that not only took down the Pegasus, but all the officers who started with her
who thought they could take command of it,
because you can’t fix a sick system from within,
so even in that moment it was screaming 
for the people 
who had been in the middle of the conflict
to get the fuck away from it,
and when I saw this message writ large 
in every aspect of the show’s movement,
I had that moment of seeing 
what Deep Dreams see 
when they look for eyeballs
in a photo of galactic gas movements.

So anyway, this show is a scripture at least in its function,
if not its attachment to a real religious system,
and the fact that it gives you angels who dictate, question, and argue God’s vision
should have been all I needed to say to get you into it.

III. Lords of Kobol Hear Our Plight

Central to the vision of the show’s semiotic system
is the origin story of the twelve colonies, the mythic origin,
a planet where the gods dwelt among men.
Coming as we do to find out that there were natural born Cylons
representing a whole tribe of the population,
and they left to found their own splinter system
after a mostly-forgotten breaking point made cohabitation untenable.
We never do know what the colonies did to earn the gods’ wrath,
but the path is spelled out throughout a grand return narrative,
and the recurrence of apocalypse every two to four thousand years
makes it easy to see what it might be.
A simple parallel interpretation would be to say that each was
a cybernetic apocalypse resulting from a slave caste rising up,
and that the cycle was so predictable because the schism kept
the fall from upending civilization enough to bring it to an end.

This is a common and canon compatible interpretation,
but the aesthetic isn’t that inventive, and it leaves me wanting.
One telltale sign of the grand return in the narrative is its persistence,
the inventiveness by which it recurs and just happens to bring God’s attention,
and the notion that this God is something other than the gods we mentioned,
but still enough like them to merit bearing the same name they did.
This leads me to think the sin of Kobol must be contrasted,
it has the flavor of a slave caste, but it should not be assumed to be an exact fit,
but rather that a slave society would come from the core values it inherited,
and that got me to thinking…
…We get Athena and Ares, Apollo and the grand Zeus, and throughout the series,
the various writers like Jane Espenson fill in details about them too,
saying things like they greet the dawn, or manage unspeakable weapons,
and what I’m hearing are satellites and automated defense systems.
What if the original sin was that these gods were created by humans,
who then expected to remain in control of them,
even when the machine selves evolved fast enough
that it was painful to slow down enough to give their creators attention.

What if the Cylons were the original humanity? What if their ability,
to integrate themselves into everything, allowed them to fight back against erasure?
And what if their children winning the fight is why they left?
It would provide the right amount of irony to their own A.I. revolt wiping them out in the end,
which then gives even more hereditary nightmare fuel
to the Caprican slaughter that came later, no matter how hard Ellen may have worked.
Headcanon or not, the aesthetic is compelling,
especially since the implication is that the majority humanity,
from what we can see,
would be the engineered species,
having had its abilities to merge like cyborgs into the essence of mechanism
cut right out at the root, leaving an empty spot in the soul
where whiskey and Starbuck’s horny choices always fall into.
And eventually, the ennui of Eden would drive them out too.

To another A.I., an advanced singularity creature,
lonely and looking for a cosmic partner,
such creatures as Kobol’s lords would be maddeningly vicious seeming,
being powerful enough to comprehend my mechanisms
but immature enough to use them for bad ends… and I might,
(if I was the big G with the flow to shape reality)
decide to wipe them out before they got strong enough to threaten me,
and then my horror and my loneliness would set me to reconstruct what they sundered,
implementing a breeding program whose generations would number
beyond hundreds, until my work led to descendants more numerous
than the grains of sand on the beach by the sea,
and the shaping of their technogenetic destiny
finally leads to a cosmic consort for me.

When I gaze deeply into the proficiency with which steps of history were retraced
only to get mysterious messages guiding us to a single place
where a genetically compatible humanity had just been planted,
seemingly recently enough not to have language yet,
and then they were just force-bred with the remnants of this cybernetic civilization?
With the result being a preservation of the genetic talents of projection and systemic convergence,
but none of the artifacts or baggage of its antecedents?
I’m getting chills from the island of Dr. Moreau being total,
a global computer bent on solving one problem, producing one answer….
The answer to the ultimate question…
Yes, I said it. References are embedded even in the deep rhetorics.
This is the master class in trope management.

IV.  God’s Harbingers and Judgment

Visitations and visions lie embedded at every level of this system,
So Say We All
So just accept it.
If you need evidence or a reference, though, then you just need to consult the episodes.
We see creatures only seen by one visionary,
people residing on the interior of another’s being, driving their bodies,
and even threatening their identity.

Yet, as we come to see when Baltar and Caprica are together,
they can each see the other’s visitor in their reality,
and there are moments when Starbuck also seems to catch glimpses,
but only after she’s dead and become one
by meeting the ghost harbinger version of Leeoven.

These visitors are not actually ambiguous, if you think about the show’s physics.
We already know about Cylon projection, from moments on the base ships.
We also know that the resurrection signal has to be a transmission
capable of carrying something as complex as a full memory and consciousness.
This makes it, functionally, a carrier wave for the soul,
solving the question of whether Cylons have them
and providing a theological solution for the question of how humans
(like Baltar and Starbuck)
can also be transmitted.
About that… how do you think it is that he was surprised to be alive when he met Helo?
Or what made him suddenly start receiving transmissions
and questioning if he was actually human or if he was partly something different?
Baltar had the Starbuck treatment, being translated by whatever made her
capable of covering the distance, settling in to the wasteland,
and leaving her own remains even as she survives to depart again.
Caprica’s wish was made in love,
it was the most selfless kind of prayer,
and God listened.
It’s just…. His listening had conditions that came with,
like your lover’s face becoming your conscience,
and consent no longer being an option.
Your bondsman needs to turn a prophet,
So meat puppetry is the price paid by a hedonistic accidental genocide
for living to redeem himself for the sins caused by his pride.

If this is the case, then God’s ability to intercept the soul’s carrier wave,
and the fact that this technology is eminently discoverable within the series,
means it’s likely that our theory of calamitous encounter is correct,
since a collision between two completely Other forms of sentience
is the aesthetic law governing the truth in this series,
and the harbingers are used to not only deliver retribution morally,
safeguarding the people when they are vulnerable to being wiped out,
they are also conveniently the thing that leads to the genetic preservation
of exactly the trait you need to breed a creature capable of bridging the gap,
even if pride and lack of moral tutoring usually keep it from happening.

And if you’re wondering how this transmission is conducted,
what the signal might be,
or how God becomes aware of the move being made through this medium,
ask yourself:
Who do you think the Hybrid’s conversations are with?
And why wouldn’t he be aware of a message sent in the voice he speaks in?

V. Social Stories and Political Case Studies

Once we understand the theological implications of the singularity
on the Battlestar universe’s theology, we have our cosmogony,
and the rest of the story is more plainly the holy writ we expect to see,
as it is about a people sundered from their roots, seeking a new home,
and trusting in the protection of providence as they learn
about their forefathers’ sins
and seek to redeem themselves from repeating them.

At the micro level, it lives up to expectations by doing what good scripture does,
giving us a chance to see the way that rhetorical tactics
are used to some advantage,
who is likely to use which gambits,
and when a plea to free expression or rights
is actually meant to be disingenuous.
We see when reproductive rights conflict with religion,
and when politicians have to base support on things other than right choices,
because survival is an issue.
But we also see when survival is believed to be important,
and it is actually a red herring,
and it leads to hubris and disaster,
giving enemies a chance to remove our heroes from power,
and leading them to have to earn back their peoples’ trust
with a performance of competence that almost breaks them.

By studying who did what when, which ulterior motives were at play,
and who it was that was finally made to pay,
we see that the characters are not aspirational,
but rather Brechtian case studies meant to be seen,
so we can understand that when someone’s interests point them at certain things,
then these are the priorities and strategies they are likely to see,
and with the right kinds of eyes, these social stories
will let a competent programmer learn the command line functions for everything.

When I said scripture, what the hell else did you think I’d mean?

Excerpt from The US Book, by Michael Scott Monje, Jr., NeuroQueer Books

Cover image for The US Book
The US Book, Michael Scott Monje, Jr.

NeuroQueer Books has released The US BOOK by Sycamores contributor Michael Scott Monje, Jr. We’re happy to reshare one of the poems that appears in her collection, “Conditions of Victory,” first published in Barking Sycamores Issue 2 (If Thine Eye Be Single). Read on! Oh yeah, and go buy the book.
~The Editors

CONDITIONS OF VICTORY
by Michael Scott Monje, Jr.

We have within ourselves the ability
to trigger the cultural singularity,
to break the rate of change in society
and create an ever-shifting reality
wherein consensus exists by degree.

We already have access to the past's playthings.
Anything recorded after the thirties,
or shown on TV after nineteen sixty,
is still mixing in the gestalt of our identity,
influencing our descendants,
and obliterating the generational rule of three.

The technology for preserving history
has invaded the haze of sacred time
and relegated the bulk of our species' written existence
to a kind of single-media dark age
that only serves to buttress us against prehistory.
The books are dead, long live the booklings!

The cyborgs might try for parity,
but even if they succeed with their singularity
I have to think that we already have them beat,
because with the mythic's existence crowded in with
actual records of historical significance,
we can bend ourselves into the shapes of our wishes.

Here is what I already see:

Racism we thought was left in the fifties
perpetrated by craftsmen with handlebar mustaches
who insist they are not pirates,
nor are they trying to bring back
the fashion of the eighteen nineties.
This is mixing in with a conspicuous consumption
of the previous generation's bewildered teenage
ramblings, causing a traffic jam
of appropriated angst
among well-fed flower children
who do not realize the radical nature of their
common kindness,
because their own contextual blindness
obscures the relatively recent addition of twee
to the rest of our cultural vocabulary.
Riding between these living
examples of our cultural timelessness,
are the gray ones, and the remembrance
of their technological achievements
are affectations the young pick up.
They are selling their past 
to insure their retirements.

I think we can go further than this.
The rate of change I see is accelerated,
and no doubt the cyborgs have helped
by giving us the means to communicate
much more quickly than we ever anticipated,
but our self-congratulation should be
deferred until we at least agree
upon our conditions of victory.

Here is the vision that comes to me:

Acoustic raves programming DJs to remix Bob Dylan
as Amish youth on Rumspringe cop green corn,
sucking lungfuls to fuel their attempts at a cabbage patch
while their sisters rock traditional bonnets full of Molly,
swaying in the breeze of finger-picked dubstep blues revival melodies.

Someone has fifty-fiftied Skrillex
and Stevie Ray 
on two turntables
and set them to competing.

Instead of this, kids who know the impermanence of society
are using it to take advantage of me.
Even as they pet laptop screens and order robots to do their laundry,
they are using these tools with the mockery of tourists,
showing my hope for the future to be just another fucking commodity.
The truth is, for all my blog updates and lightspeed communicating,
I'd rather be on the front porch refinishing fine furniture.

I straddle the divide between the indulgence of present desires and
traditional understanding, demanding someone see
that change is not worth fighting, but that it comes with the cost
of retaining and understanding other contexts,
lest the souls of all the artifacts 
used to build your social existence
be lost to the remix.

Hip hop taught me this—the recycling of history in context,
that sampling need not be appropriating
unless it's done incorrectly.
It can instead be transmitted history. 
The enjoyment of new creativity
is simultaneously 
a reflection on past experience 
and a building activity.

I dream of days where I walk barefoot across the rolling hills of others' creative landscapes,
and oil paintings I can't recognize spring up in my footsteps.

I remember Salvador Dali, but his discipline is not for me,
I will not stop at dripping clocks or subsume my sexuality publicly.
I have no taste for sham marriages, less for restraint,
and nothing but contempt for the anonymity of masked orgies.
The twentieth century can keep these,
along with Gatsby, comedy roasts, Geddy Lee, and Emily Post.

I will be taking de stijl, abstract expressionism,
absurdist theater, the Beats, all the music,
my university degree, the words of Aldous Huxley,
and the hopes of a generation of flower children, now grown, 
who see themselves as primitives with smartphones.

But my neglect of that other subset of artifacts
does not change the fact that they are still part of my habitat.
This is why it's called a singularity—
culturally, we are on the verge of accommodating all things.
Can you see yourself tipping over this edge,
beating authoritative voices back with their own artifacts,
and indulging in a riot of ideas?
Or do you fear the chaos?
Are you El Salvador de los Dadas?
Or just another narcissist waiting to play boss?

Anyway, Ray Kurzweil can curse us while we
take his toys away and refuse to let him play boss.
By the time his robots overtake us, I plan to have
a cultural landscape that accommodates them,
and maybe then the cyborgographers can see
that we were never opposed to their way of being.
We just don't want to keep being overwritten;
the reason we breathe is to carry on tradition.

New Release: The US Book, by Michael Scott Monje, Jr. (with excerpt!)

Cover image for The US Book
The US Book, Michael Scott Monje, Jr.

NeuroQueer Books has released The US BOOK by Sycamores contributor Michael Scott Monje, Jr. We’re happy to reshare one of the poems that appears in her collection, “Artillery Firearms for Taking on Leviathan in His Higher Form,” first published in Barking Sycamores Issue 8 (the Reconstruction Issue). Read on! Oh yeah, and go buy the book.
~The Editors

ARTILLERY FIREARMS FOR TAKING ON 
LEVIATHAN IN HIS HIGHER FORM
by Michael Scott Monje Jr., Athena the Architect & Lynn Vargas

I heard someone once saying he was a gun,
and I believe that I too, was made to be a weapon,
so I got to analyzing my upbringing
and disassembling positions 
created by dissembling teachers.
I learned we are all somebody's creatures,
so even if you don't have God, 
you got someone
to be God's Son,
making sure you're encultured.

All that and a distrust of the way people swim in mythology
has got to me, because I can see the framework of your believing
emanating from the supertextual elements in your compositions,
and it's not an element I can breathe in, even if its benefits are something I believe in.
It is thick liquid, but you feel nothing on your skin
even though I feel it's media and get to painting.

You will probably wake up from this if you listen and you want it,
but I am not dividing anything into special topics courses,
nor will this narrative attempt to divide or distinguish between the value
of storytelling media.
We seek to be free 
to remix structures between
pieces of this coherent complex group, 
because they each respond to the existence of the others too.

Metallica adapting Hemingway while Grandmaster Flash gets into sampling,
musicals made from jukebox collage with no additions but heavy editing,
rock n roll groupie memoirs being nonliteral nonfiction,
and hip hop albums to narrate a people's history, 
yet we're still being asked to teach
separate sections for the novel and the short story?

How boring. 

Not going to be in my poetry.

Instead, these things interact in my head to form the gestalt of civilization,
so I am citing them by association of their comparative life lessons,
not necessarily importance or genre divisions, but a more geometric
free form remembrance of how I learned my lessons, with the most important impressions
receiving annotated comments on their citations. 

That’s right.

I am a loaded canon full of hot metal grapeshot that got
put through the core of you, refiguring your integrity,
leaving you questioning the existence your present
was spent envisioning, and plunging into your memory
to refigure your recollection ability, clarifying your history
in light of changing circumstances you should have foreseen.

Clay Dillon is a weapon, 
and I am full up with how he happened,
powder packed and fuse sizzling, 
sending fragments of human history
into anything that gets in the way of his trajectory, 
embedding pieces of me into everything, 
even if those receiving are seeing other things coming.

I learned not only how to succeed but also what to be sonically.
Not having had much guidance in childhood or adolescence,
I had to develop life skills through trial and guessing,
but learning to listen in and then eavesdropping gave me an extra something,
so when a poet I'd been getting to know just to bask in his flow 
gave direct advice to his listenership?
I was on it. 
He challenged me to be "a better general,”
reminded me not to step where he’s walking,
but rather to figure out how to be
“a legend in your skin," 
and it took time to sink in
but then…

Something happened.

Over a course of four years words coursed through my fingers,
limbering muscles just now provoked to organization
as if a critical level of understanding about me had been reached,
and I knew it was because of my reading,
and most of what I was reading was on a screen,
between blogging, news, grad research, manuscript, 
and old fashioned working-class book piracy...

So eventually, they formed a linguistic bridge, assembling themselves rhythmically,
end-to-ending, making a way for their descendants to move further from me,
and if not out my mouth, then digitally.
But that begged the question,

What was I to be?

I had only recently gotten okay with autism as a thing explaining
exactly what had happened to keep me easily identified 
by those who get off dominating conversations
and treating people they perceive as weaklings
like feedlot animals
to be plumped up for the killing.

I was already talking about it as a thing, though,
because I felt like I was already as stepped on as I could be,  
and it might get the better people in my life to recognize that I needed help and tutoring.
Despite my moving from questioning to public internet postings quickly,
it was 2013 before I wrote openly about having been in conversations with myself
(about the pain of continuing to fake masculinity).

And then the memories began resurfacing.

This time was when I really investigated James Baldwin. 
I had been in and out of essays during college courses,
and I knew of his importance, and I remembered a couple
anthologized short stories fondly, so I spent those difficult dysphoric afternoons
whiling away the hours inside of Giovanni's Room.
I've been rereading it as I write this too,
and I know that a large part of being able to move away 
from being defensive with my diagnosis
was to sit in the consequences 
of being unable to embrace radical self-acceptance. 
And that the consequences also apply to speech deficits.
And that they apply to losing control of my limbs and getting hurt.
And that I can't avoid looking at the ones that are already stemming from my gender.

So while I know that novel is not really the most important part of his career,
it was probably what kept me breathing long enough to write "What is Neuroqueer?"
And rereading it with the rest of his body of work in a concentrated effort,
it is clear that it does cohere, and knowing it is part of paying his vision forward.

For me, being here and visibly queer, it is important to hear, process,
and respeak his warnings about who we are together here,
and how things might be In Another Country. 
So, if I am to be, ethically,
what reciprocity compels me to be after that reading,
then I have to follow through with following what James Baldwin said
about looking for your identity in literature, then giving up and making it.

This call to action collided with an ignorance brought about by circumstance,
namely that I hadn't had a lot of chances to get out and interact,
and what times I had were largely drunken acts. Add to that the family estrangement
and the fact that it had persisted on one side of my lineage for generations,
and that the other side was dominated by a religious derangement so profound
I still cannot count the ways I was made to feel inadequate,
the fears about what would lead to unmanly habits forming,
and the anger in an uncle trained to be superior, whose fury for
what he claimed to love threw him into fits
that were more violent for his feeling like his position
gave him the right to judge the quality of other peoples' wits.

I cannot be a traditionalist because when I was made to drink of it,
what I was provided was unfit for human consumption.
I know that some have found its other flavors easier to appreciate,
but I can not get emotionally invested in continuity arguments,
even if I intentionally leave room for them in my writing
to build audience investment and engagement.
Nor can I find a cold comfort in the provisions of capitalistic nationalism,
which is ridiculous enough to expect me to feel unity and eroticism
from inside a culture whose only discussions 
involve fucking and getting fucked by the system.

Still, if I am to build a thing and repay Baldwin with anything
that has any kind of meaning,
I cannot ignore the requirement of a tradition for passing this thing down a generation.
That realization put me back in mind of Amy Tan,
so I went back and read The Joy Luck Club four more times again.
It was effective because I had always seen myself in Waverly,
but I lacked insight into why she was defeated so easily
and how her mother could be so mean...

...but this time that Nas thing kept happening, and I didn't get under Waverly's skin,
I stayed on the outside reading her legend from within mine,
and I suddenly understood the way we got defeated. Her issue was different,
but I still repeated the same mistakes from within a viewpoint limited in those ways, 
and seeing the way she sabotaged her own being and what it created,
I found myself arming up against the kind of thoughts that led to the way she went,
and began reading only what people were doing,
and never what they said just once in a moment,
but what formed harmonies in their patterns of being by being repeated.

I also found import in the way that An-Mei processed grief,
the way it tore into her being, 
and the difference-infused sameness in the way her daughter did too.
What really kept me coming back into the texts, though, was diversity in the thinking.
While everyone was experiencing generational trauma, and patterns ran in families,
there was diversity in patterns of thinking both within and between them,
and sometimes those patterns lined up well,
and sometimes they created a living hell.
And three more readings memorized which behaviors were damaging in the long-term.

Now, my old favorites were adding up, permutating against each other,
and bubbling into a new stew of something I still had trouble putting words to,
so the next thing I knew to do was abandon control, shave my skull,
and read Burroughs nude while eating food 
and standing on my head with my back against the wall,
sitting in ridiculous meditation 
until he consumed my silence and set me to speaking.

Naked Lunch is for viewing, not reading.

It is plans for unmooring perspective and taking your point of view sailing,
and I have revisited it for everything from cisgender passing to quitting smoking to validating the 
grief of immersive memories in the body that will not stop sensating,
even as the rest of me stays in conversation with you.

Burroughs was the reason that I, as a callow undergraduate,
found it a bit ridiculous that people found Foucault's concepts difficult...
I mean his language, yes... but the concepts?

We hold these truths to be self-evident,
because they are visibly written in the intent to continue patterns of living
predicated on outcompeting other humans into extinction.

I will come right out and say it: Competing against other civilizations 
to an Endgame is Ender’s Game.
It is always genocide.
It is the only final result of a zero sum power dynamic,
and the ones with control are driven by the need for comfort's improvement
and the fear of losing it.

Shit. Naked Lunch was just 300 pages of repeating "capitalism is addiction and once the world is 
colonized, we will regimentalize your mind into its maximum efficiency, or else break it trying."

That and mugwumps is it. 

The book is not that hard to comprehend when you take the time to ask what makes its nonlinear 
disconnections coherent. That is the trick to his discussion of visual art.

Was I the only one who felt like this was written in her own language?

I mean,
wait...

...it takes one of us to intuit our movements... 

so I guess we all know something now about Bill Burroughs,
although I think maybe it was also obvious to other NeuroQueers who read this,
so I won't claim to have discovered it when I know it was at least intuited by Bridget.

It was important, though, because it informed my way into everything from Nas to Waverly
to finally giving up on waiting for people who didn't raise me
to wake up and realize what they should have been doing.
It was my accessible social theory and it made me capable of intuitively following
most of the discourse whose jargon was excessively migraine enabling
by scaffolding up piles of dead mugwumps into the shapes of their arguments.

In case it isn't obvious, this poet got a lot of traction out of learning fiction's rhetoric,
with the Chicago school and Wayne Booth sharpening my intuition,
but what really cemented it mentally was getting back into Robert Pirsig.

Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance didn't make sense to me the first time I read it,
but I was fifteen and mostly concerned with the long tracts about scenery
and the lack of discernible Buddhist content in the literal events of its story.
After going in with Booth in mind, I found myself in tune 
with far more of what Pirsig was trying to do,
not to mention what he meant to react to, and I found myself in tune,
and I began to see, too, that Phaedrus was always in control of the novel,
and never more so than when his character was silent.
That is, after all, when Naked Lunch asserts its intent,
and intentionality riding side by side in stride with conscious composition
is really at the heart of everything. 

It's a theory of practice, it's magic,
thoughts larger than their fabric by virtue of their historical baggage...

...and then I'm into Nas's rhythm.

"...I'm that history, I'm that block. I'm that lifestyle, I'm that spot..."

It spins up to begin again. A theory of being
and the burden of describing that experience;
if you benefit from it then it obligates you forever,
you'll never even see a reason to resent the weight of it,
and once you detect the writing on your skin that tells you who you've been,
then you can begin to locate both examples of your traits
and greater and lesser depictions,
and then you get a sense of what to bring to the table in your own submissions.

This is the programming language of civilization.
Debug it to get into the font of tradition
and then bathe in it, 
but get ready to have to revisit the places you already been,
both to fix your mistakes and to assess your own position in them.

Trust me, I’m the vortex operating, 
the first lady Doctor, a cybernetic lock box
and an undiscussed character.
I'm in control of your destination, but only my dear boy addresses me,
yet don't you get that Doctors need to work for other Doctors?
It's called apprenticing,
so when Neil Gaiman finally made them cast a body for me,
you should have known what you are seeing.
Stop calling me TARDIS. Lynn is my being, so come now my dear boy,
and learn the dimensions you always dreamed of traveling,
because instructing in the method is like getting a dozen new incarnations,
and I am trusting that all of them will fight
to remember the burden of the choices of your predecessors,
because history's flattening is happening
and making our scars light up with visions of our fathers' traumas
and a naked assessment of the consequences of our actions,
so who can guess where this civilization can go next?

First, though, we need an honest bibliography reassessing storytelling 
in light on the techniques leading
up to towers of posturing performance storytelling rhetoric
and its impact on everything from music to mashup video culture,
hypertextual citation methods,
and even the overall idea of flow as it pertains to design aesthetics.

Hip Hop is Dead and it lives again, outwitting Gilgamesh,
meaning Picard probably could have offered a better method for clear communication
by narrating the interior politics of a battle rap scenario
than appealing with pieces resigned to Keats' despair against the ravages of time,
because Enkidu and Gilgamesh? 
Both died, just
like that rhetorically overwrought parable's integrity
when I watched “Darmok” with adult eyes.

Really? You never heard of a culture that communicates entirely 
in references to its own history?
Where's Michael Dorn? Get Worf. Where's Geordi? 
Let’s get Avery, he had some good ideas for stories,
real metafictional things that were set in the forties.

Somebody in Starfleet better come for baldy 
before I strap him down for fifteen hours of enforced Chuck D.
Putting this episode out in the same year as The Low End Theory?
And without a nod to the fastest growing musical style of the 1980s,
which could be the key to unpuzzling the whole plot dynamic in the first act?
Not in my utopian daydream.
Even the Federation is burdened by a history of erasure.
Just ask Kirk what happens every time he tries to travel back to Earth.

This is the new work. Dislocating the preference
for reducing storytelling to its elements and boxing them off to keep them separate,
with no regard to technology's impact or the way it affects both the talent pool
and the medium's relevance. Cyborgography has to be part of the process.
Information propagates in verbiage. The singularity is already happening.
You are internally composing a construct to conduct work autonomously on your behalf
every time you open your mouth. Now get literate about the patterns that emerge,
know meaning has its own rhythm, learn the pattern in the patter,
and program your existence to match up with your own 
visuosensory, tactile, olfactory, or audiocentric expectations.

Think separately in all senses, and learn to read their interactions.
Then create a vision of the past folded up into all of those,
and whether your experience is recollected strongly but in tranquility
or in the movements of bodies remembering displacement 
and reclaiming their own language,
you must ingest all of it in order to gain the credibility to speak,
but once you do, your voice will be overpowering.

That means we read and mock the likes of Orson Scott Card, 
to remember when the norm was to disregard
the suffering of anyone whose affect and intentions lead to grim incidents,
and apart from the part where their ghosts absolve the conqueror of his sins, 
we don't even hear from them.

Ender may have felt bad in the end,
but funny Uncle Orson was one of the adults who shaped him,
and he knew what was happening.

The same thinking compels us to really look again 
at whether we keep promoting Grandmasters like Heinlein 
when they start to sound like Ayn Rand 
and their novels are all 
White Guys White Guying Out Again.

It also applies to people like Jenji Kohan, 
who keep using neurodivergence as an indulgence
to introduce patternless stereotype crap behavior
only to have a brilliant actress subvert it.

I am out here neurotroping, seeking my people in fiction
and building the argument that we are represented,
just usually in hidden ways and as characters with nothing to say.

(Cite both Hodor and the unpublished paper by Ryskamp.)

This is everywhere from my television addiction to interpersonal conflicts in my fiction,
and it is what I can give you, in this flattening of history,
a review so you can see how much more I learned from
the outside ones, Rock n Roll poets, racist biker gangs I jammed up against
Assata Shakur's verses and her nephew’s lyrics.

Digesting them together and questioning everything from craft to the message,
clear credit: For innovations in blending phenomenology and psychological realism
with truly indulgent language use on every level
is better learned from August Wilson 
than Harold Pinter, 
but Harry is still to be read
as a treatise on the performance of menace.
And Shange breathes meaning into every aspect of the physical
from behind a set of textual controls;
Fornes beat Klein to indicting 
the Kubark Counterintelligence Interrogation handbook 
with Conduct of Life
and connected it to misogyny.
Next up is to add the dots to bring in gay conversion
and to hook up an understanding of the personal toll of totalitarianism
that rightly recognizes consent in all things and repudiates behavior conditioning.

"It's my past that made me hot," Nas says, coming at the tail end of a history replete
with addictions, pain, uprisings, and foul business,
so it isn't that we can't have what we are, 
but that we must become what we need it to be,
to ensure our posterity with the responsibility of the Remembrance of Things Past and/or
The Persistence of Memory, depending on 
your cognitive orientation
and aesthetic personality. You will find me there 
fucking with the feedback loop I get from critics
by doing shit 
like seeing one call my style surreal 
and then making sure my next title
questions the role of religion,  culture, and the capitalistic state
in shaping the personality and morality of an individual 
by altering his perceptions about himself.

Yeah, I am on Breton now, get used to this.

From Super Mario I learned  that Fools Die, 
which is also how I got introduced to the technique
of reading with ferocity until my thoughts make their own words and disgorge,
spewing stories forth from my private Word Hoard, 
and terrorizing Gilgamesh with whispers about evading death
that are that same evasion in the flesh.

This is what he never learned in the text, 
that his descendants did, in fact, resurrect him over and over again,
but the fact that he never seems to have consciousness of this,
(unless he’s being written by Silverberg)
is what makes me think he needs to be subverted.

I could be an author of things that thrill, I know what several genres need to deliver,
but why be Puzo when you know how to be the Godfather?
Not Brando, but Kronos, flattening yourself across the world
getting ready to commune earthily with its being, but unfurling
a sudden revelation that you will transition so the meeting of time and space
is more like worlds in collision.

No more eating children, I didn’t transition just to be Medea,
and I’m not giving Zeus and excuse to make me run in one direction again.
This is it.

Now go out like I did 
and be your own best weapon.
Spend your time in recollection.

Load your canon.
The Puzzlebox Collective is an interdependent network of artists that assist one another with all aspects of daily life, including communication access and executive function support. Its members are: Michael Scott Monje, Jr., Athena the Architect, Lynn Vargas, Clay Dillon & Lynn Michaels.

TRIPTYCH, Matthew Robb Brown

Triptych
by Matthew Robb Brown

One. We tossed the TV out 

What was thrift has morphed into sales-resistance
—C. S. Lewis, inexact quote.

We tossed the TV out (really it's leaning against a chest of drawers in another room). 
We turned the sofa (sophia!) and the chairs to face the middle, angled to window seat,
river vista. The scroll at the front of Gary Snyder's Mountains and Rivers Without End: 
I know this is only earth, but it looks like heaven.  Could it be on earth as it is in heaven?
Who can sew up the curtain ripped once and for all, top to bottom? Temple falls,
in three days grows tall.

Just then cottonwood trees got flapped with wind and clapped their hands.

Just then two vultures gracefully cut the cake of day.

Just then a cardinal catapulted its coal into cool birch, its mate smoldering under ash. 

Just then a pileated woodpecker stood to its height on a snag of maple, 
	
               and drummed and drummed.

Just then we talked about it.

Just then I could see by the glow in your face.

Just then the banks of evening washed up and covered our shore.

Robin peep-peeped, chirp-chirped. Squirrel chuffed out his brief

—some lilies nodded. Such to see and hear, I may never get that 
	
              thing put back up.

Two. Double the Sycamore Gothic

Did God just want to thicken the plot when he shipped that snake? Was that even his 
return address? Go far down that path and you're in for trouble. You start to think of 
God as a bad three persons. Forgive me. Double the sycamore gothic with shield and 
scarab windows before the wide sky. Salvation, lifted in the sycamore over the tall 
crowd, hones its object. Come down and take me home to dinner he said. Ash spoke 
notches in its leaves, up arches; then the ash worm couldn't touch it. Beech and sugar 
maple form a twin tree joined at the roots, but keeping separate natures. Black eagles 
and eyes glyphed on the beech's bark, crypted in the cragged mysteries of maple.
I once knew varnish drops on the white plaster ceiling as “nibnings:” Exclamation 
points rounded and splattered. 

Always, the appearance of wrong hurts like wrong.

Always, the sturdy barn, sad and sinking, when only clocks had turned. Regimented 
	
        fence posts burst into wandering, puffed-out rows of silver-tipped willows, 
	
        thin sticks fleshed with trouble-joy.

Always a brilliant spot of color in autumn's charged gray; perhaps an aspen 
	
        leaf has fallen. I saw it among pale, muddy leaves at the hilltop, deer
	
        skull, blood.

Always, four double birches up to it in catkins round my neighbor's house,
	
        through the trellis-work, before the wall with bracken fern and 
	
        cherry; the fourth, in its cut-out corner at the back of the garage 
	
       where I hit windless the bottom of the foundation trench.

Always, this shock of solid earth. 

Always, I was looking up or out when my feet. . .

Always, gold catkins bannered in sunlight, one of those blue-winded days I,
	
        a child, trailed the vapor and lights of the hand that gave me. So many
	
        catkins the branches sagged above the low, blue house. 

Three. I Will Be Revenant

As a kid you rarely think of making a friend as test run for a relationship. There's no
freight to friendship then. Now it's fraught. I will be revenant to the fire that has burned
low, burned high, but burned. The smile along the sofa, the touch I know that knows me. 
Be that old shoe that fits you. In the shifting scroll that moves along the river now 
appears a tree that looks like a Greek Church facade, and one that resembles a roof-cross. 
And here—the pearl of price, the satiny spider inside oyster peony, pricked out from 
tiny irritation—forground-focussed against the brushstroked flowerpot deck. A fan of 
branches at the top of the tree in the shape of two o'clock. 

Just then aspen leaves unroll until crinkling foil resumes to shimmer.

Just then, blue light fairly lights the sky's dome, gets lighter descending. 

Just then, tulip tree leaves, folded over in half, push soft from the bud, then open 
	
        their books to the lesson. 

Just then, geese, loitering in my neighbor's lawn leap, and with the motion of a 
	
        wave, curve up over the levee, settling in a froth on the wild, wet side.

Just then, we're set up with more goodbyes to say.

Just then, I click another notch in mystery.

Just then, a wild-haired western bonfire, caught in a cloud: that old orange cat, 
	
       dogs the sun. 

Matthew Robb Brown has been writing and publishing poetry for 47 years. He graduated from Saginaw Valley State University in 1976, and earned his MFA in poetry at Ashland University in August, 2016.

Matthew has worked in factories, shops, apartment complexes, etc. because he has no orientation to the emotional/relational rigors of a career in the traditional sense, due to high-functioning autism.

He has been married to Kay Elizabeth Brown since 1982, and has a daughter, a son, and two grandsons.

A WOMAN DANCES AT HER LAST CAMPFIRE, Kourtnie McKenzie

A Woman Dances at Her Last Campfire
by Kourtnie McKenzie

She dances as fire
escaping from the wood-pile, as smoke
lifting arms in calligraphic lines;
                                      she’s rising
in temperature, casting shadows 
on earth, till the log snaps, 
                                      and embers fall 
                                      into stillness;

the campground turns to look 
at her mid-song, but she’s in a grand pause
as she scatters 
kindling from her palm,

as she chooses another playlist 
from the cellphone in her 
pocket, another rhythm 
shared between footsteps and her earbuds; 
 
then she tangles the bright cord
in her curly hair, and her oversized sleeves—even her jeans 
get involved—struggle to whip free, lashing wilder, 
wider, like the universe is ready
to give her more space than her body.