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ROBERT CUNNINGHAM

Robert Cunningham is a software engineer & poet living in Brooklyn with his partner & their many houseplants. Once upon a time, he earned an MFA in Creative Writing from The New School. His work is published in LEVELER. Otherwise, he's rattling along the best he can.



DRONE

— after Paul Laurence Dunbar


Get up. Fetch your face from the drawer.

Flap it out. Wash it, cream it, hook it on.

Cycle 366. Board the train drone,

programmed sequence of stops and starts.

7 hours 59 minutes to go. Fingers click.

Mouth consumes coffee, mouth consumes cheeseburger, mouth smiles.

Make an airy nothing. Wipe away crumbs, wipe away stains, wipe.

Power off the machines. 5 minutes to go. Where?

Dragnet of twilight, hive mind

of rush hour. Board the drone train. Face goes slack.

Am I AI incarnate, am I processing

this poem successfully, am I reproducible,

fuckable, am I in the cloud or plugged in, am I clout or unknown, am I

upgradable, am I lol, omg, am I alive, am I allowed.



ABSTRACT LANDSCAPE


a thought moves through a field

originating somewhere, going nowhere you might feel the ripple

of its passage might want to give its passage meaning give it shape & a body

eyes like your own but hair that couldn't be further from your truth— overhead, the sun silvers as a cloud wanders between it & the planet the green pond transforms to black lacquer the red ribbon of the road becomes a noun with qualities of a verb

emptying itself to the horizon where a single silo is waiting bravely

for the next tornado to explode its coherence & syntax so you give

the abstraction meaning as it moves like a hearse through the field mysterious in origin, of mysterious end

beyond your scope as it exits the knowable field

for it is only like a hearse

this thought & the look you are

using to name or not

name the oil pumps

pulling


the planet's insides out horses galloping through cables

strung from the poles the look you are using is also a thought that changes the landscape that changes with the landscape

until subject blurs into object as the sun illuminates the fuzzy clouds wandering through

the windy blue of the planet, your body which is clay made for the molding

of air a thought that moves through a field returning always to the place that it came from




UNICORN


father is babbling legalese in his lab like an oulipo poet. the streets are filling with starving humans. this is the world ending. i accept it, i see it as a part of me. if the garden glitters as it crumbles, then father will learn to grow tumors in vats on the lawn. i have faith that we can save ourselves with the perfect computer-meal. inside the vats i hear the murmur of expanding meat, i put my hand to the steel skin & feel it kicking. the people are flinging themselves at the electrified fence, they would steal father away from me. an anvil cloud spreads fire on the horizon, i can see a great hand being hammered atop it




GHOST


i grow great at lingering,

committing to a room.

Souls of Mischief speak

through digital mouths

in the coffee shop built over my bones—

my clear anatomy's tickled

as waves

of sound & light

vibe right through me.

is this heaven: to haunt

a futured memory? these MCs’ voices

are a fire to dance around

at every house party i've loved,

recalling the names

of each june moon

i've stitched into my skin.

even when

i'm not there, i am.


WICKED EASTER


the wind roars anarchy, savagely shakes

our cedars to the core-root. inside, the house loses power

a green growl prowls the rooms

like the angel of passover

like our dark plan gathering its parts. we light white candles—

little red devils chewing wax bones.

your grief, my faith—the doors blast back on their hinges.

what we conjure will sicken

or maim the man who harmed you

pinch his beer bloated guts. joy electrifies the air

as the complicit, half-frozen heart

of the land yields to the wild intensity of rain.


if i were made into a god,

the time of tribulation would be at hand.






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