This selection, chosen by guest editor JJ Rowan, is from Breakpoint by Betsy Aoki, released by Tebot Bach in 2022.
Messaging the dead
I watch as the cursor glides across the screen captured in a chat box, hesitating as in life, or maybe it’s just harder to get the Internet where the dead are. They take turns typing cryptic messages asking where I am, what am I wearing, why did I talk more to her instead of him. They use acronyms of texting because each letter travels so far from echoing minds to my nervous eyeballs. They always pass the Turing test in triplicate. When I ask how it is over there they evade comparison: “unspeakable” “indescribable” “neither hot nor cold, really.” The dead always miss me, but I am just another cursor in the end, I could be anyone over here, alive and well, trying to capture their footprints as they try to capture mine. We cannot touch. We think we understand. We type and type worried to find that each has been talking like the skim of a Ouija board’s glide only to our own twitches and fears all this time.
Elizabeth (Betsy) Aoki is a poet, fiction writer and game producer. Her first poetry collection, Breakpoint was a2019 National Poetry Series Finalist and published as the winner of the Patricia Bibby First Book Award. Her poem “Slouching like a velvet rope” won the 2021 Auburn Witness Poetry Prize, selected by Pulitzer Prize-winning poet Jericho Brown. Most recently her work is featured in Cascadia Field Guide, a Pacific Northwest nature anthology matching poets with visual artists. Her prior publications include The Margins (Asian American Writers’ Workshop), Uncanny Magazine’s 50th issue, Calyx, and Hunger Mountain.
JJ Rowan (they/them) is a queer nonbinary writer and dancer. Their poems, not-poems, and interactive performances have appeared in the tiny, Dream Pop Journal, 45th Parallel, and at the SMOL Fair and the Splinter Collective’s Interrupted by Trains, among others. Their most recent chapbook is a simple verb (Bloof Books). They are on the editorial team at just femme & dandy. You can sign up for their newsletter, actual motion, at their website.
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