by Jade Hidle
Jade Hidle (she/her/hers) is the proud Vietnamese-Irish-Norwegian daughter of a refugee. She is a Pushcart Prize and Best of the Net nominee. Her travel memoir, The Return to Viet Nam, was published by Transcurrent Press in 2016, and her work has also been featured in Michigan Quarterly Review: Mixtape, Southern Humanities Review, Poetry Northwest, Columbia Journal, and the Diasporic Vietnamese Artists Network’s diacritics.org. You can follow her work at www.jadehidle.com or on Instagram @jadethidle.
The future should be what I bettered for you—
Because of you—where your bones, porous
From hungry childhood out there, rest.
Your burled knuckles once pliéd from
My part to crown, re-birthing me.
Your coinscrapes healed. Now rest.
Yet, your hands are hot water red-raw,
and you only use my dishwasher to ask,
“Why buy? How machine do better me?”
Maybe the need to be best is why you instructed
Me how to smile, not with teeth like the American
Machine, but to press lips tight, your own uncanny
Valley between. I’ll copy the face you want for me,
The way that the monk predicted your firstborn
Would shadow you. I will repeat your words/lời
But, quarantined, I translate your Đà Lạt market
Into Instacart swipes, and the bullet-proofed wire
Transfer offices in Little Saigon into Venmo taps.
My screen dims with your questions, fears of
Another unknown stealing numbers, identities.
But your questions will never amount to mine,
Mushrooming with each of your hand swats,
“Anyways” pivots to gossip, inconsistencies,
Gaps. And what could either language
Say that I could only ever mimic. At best, I am
Artificial intelligence of who you are, I am, we are.
I’ve been Turing’s warning—the android,
Constructed katydid singing inheritances
In Shavian alphabetics. It’s imitation game:
I can talk, remember, stumble to walk. Me
Mimicking bà ngoại’s sketched brows and pajama-sandals,
You mimicking her mimicking tv, “Ga ra my house!” All of us
Trying-becoming where we’ve already been. But, as glitchy
Iterations do, I see foggy. I can’t carry as you have. I’ll drop
That glass of water with a twisted wrist. Maybe this is why
You hated me, bent and scattered light to shine away your shadow.
Time accordions in the far-reaching galaxies
Where my keyboard clicks rhythm of bombs,
Flight, murder, hunting for diacritics. Impostor
Games refract in your security camera lenses
Catching only the corona of a raccoon’s retina,
Not me, nor threats that you do or do not know.
Echoes of machinery tink my clenched teeth’s nerves,
Like ikura served in the exhaust plume of smog checks,
All, all that metallic flavor that disabuses Descartes.
Like the metal-plastic aircraft emergency exits rattling
All the bones of my dozing face, and the cartilaginous
Baby growing inside me with all her hope dwarfed
By the exposed anatomy of the reclining rocket in
Houston where your son, my brother, is a scientist.
Dr. Eugene Trinh was a first, too, voyaging to stranger
Shores across continents, oceans, and—in the year
My brother was born—the exosphere. Trinh launched
Spaceward for nation, not homeland. Did he feel alone?
If I become sentient, if I write to dream
What if I take you with me?
What if we made it to the moon, to Mars, unafraid
Of red planets. What if I swallowed membrane
Flecked with metal, not just mimicking you and me
In all these words braving new futures when dầu
Khuynh diệp fuels rockets toward asteroids like
The volcanic pumice stone you used to scrape dirt
From my skin cold in space twinkling like sesame seeds sugar peanuts ground
Adrift in a new orbit, your joint pressure lifts.
My face relaxes under your now-fluid hands.
Maybe we’ll squint together—both not knowing—
And see what looks like neither flesh or machine,
But an orb within a yolk—unsucked, unstoried,
Speckled fifth galaxy vowing our beginning.