Historian, I keep having this dream where you & I are machines: a metal fist overcome with daisy heads, burnt stems collected around metal feet. The fist belongs to a machine shaped like you & the feet belong to a machine shaped like me. The you-machine closes its fist & opens its fist & closes its fist & opens. I am programmed not to wince at the sound of your hands. I am programmed to enjoy, to show my metal teeth. Then the daisy heads are dust & the dust looks like white pollen. It lifts into the air & settles on my face. This makes me look human instead of machine. I’m not sure what this means & you don’t recognize me. You are programmed to attack any moving body that doesn’t look like me & I know you designed this feature because sometimes I am too gullible. But now I cannot speak with you opening my metal chest with your metal fingers. I’m not programmed to protect myself from you. I would ask for rain at the expense of rust if I knew how. But instead my wires are tangled in your metal fingers & this is how we are for several days, my chest peeled & you reaching inside until you’re sure the wires are familiar. [End Page 79]
Historian, a cage where my chest should be. Inside it: metal lungs, a wooden heart that tastes like oak. Cut in half to see how old I am, all results are inconclusive. Guess who can’t count tree rings. I must’ve missed that year.
Surrounded by doubled-over pines, I can’t see beyond their needles on the ground, their needles licking my arms, their needles hanging on. Historian, my hands all opened. Take them please before the wind.
The light posts are candle-shaped & their bulbs have flames inside. Technology eclipsing itself, forgetting its history, Historian. One of us should write this down.
The moss here is probably older than we are. Waving at us, it’s hard to know whether it’s saying goodbye or hello. Are we arriving or leaving, Historian? Quickest Answer. Go. [End Page 80]
Joshua R. Helms’s work has appeared in Copper Nickel, DIAGRAM, Phoebe, Redivider, and Sixth Finch, among other publications. He is the winner of Dzanc Books’ inaugural Poetry Collection Award, and Dzanc will publish his first collection, Machines Like Us, in September 2014.